Now that Hallowe’en has passed, there’s no excuse: it’s time to plan some Christmas treats. I’ve been scouting around to find out the pick of this year’s London Winter shows. So if you live in the UK capital, or are just travelling to London for the festive season, take a look at this list of our personal favourites, new and old.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show
Ambassador’s Theatre, 2 Dec 2016–8 Jan 2017
The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show is nominated for a Drama Desk Award for Unique Theatrical Experience. It features a menagerie of 75 enchanting puppets during a 60-minute show that adapts four of Eric Carle’s best loved books for the stage: The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse, Mister Seahorse, The Very Lonely Firefly and, of course, The Very Hungry Caterpillar. If you’d like to find out more about the show, you can read our review here.
Sadler’s Wells Peacock Theatre, 23 Nov 2016–1 Jan 2017
Sadler’s Wells is the home of London dance performances. The Snowman, based on the book by Raymond Briggs and the subsequent film, is now in its 19th consecutive year. Ruari Murchison’s design combines with Tim Mitchell’s lighting to bring to life the story of a boy who sets off on a night-time quest with his snowman, who has come to life and takes him through the skies to meet penguins, reindeer, and Father Christmas. You can read what we thought of this delightful show here.
Babe, the Sheep-Pig
Polka Theatre, 25 Nov 2016–5 Feb 2017
Babe, The Sheep-Pig has the backing of some stellar creatives: the performance is adapted from Dick King-Smith’s much-loved children’s novel by Olivier Award-winning playwright David Wood OBE, and includes puppets created by award-winning puppet designer Max Humphries (Cirque de Soleil), with the ensemble cast delivering puppetry by Matthew Forbes (Associate Director in Puppetry & Movement, War Horse).
When Babe arrives at Hogget’s Farm he is taken in by the trusty sheep-dog Fly, and soon discovers a talent for herding. But can a small pig make it in a dog’s world, and when his farmyard friends are in trouble can Babe save the day?
Leicester Square Theatre, 5 Nov–30 Dec 2016
The eternally popular Scamp Theatre adaptation is back for its sixth season. Sally Cookson’s production takes Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s story and transforms it into a bouncy, perky stage show with a boost of physical theatre, some zingy props and a strong cast. We’re such big fans for the show that we went to see it for three years in a row; you can find out why here.
Raymond Briggs’ Father Christmas
Lyric Hammersmith, 18 Nov–24 Dec 2016
Father Christmas, sat on a toilet doing a poo? With someone saying ‘plop’ for sound effects?
Those of you who are familiar with Raymond Briggs’ take on Father Christmas’ big day, will know that it’s a warts-and-all tale. This Santa is cross about Christmas, grumpy in the cold, and fantasizes about sunny beach holidays while he’s loading up his sleigh with presents. But the Pins and Needles production of Father Christmas at the Lyric, Hammersmith doesn’t lack any magic and sparkle, despite the grouchy main man. You can read our review of last year’s performance here.
Dr Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat
Pleasance Theatre, 6 Dec 2016–2 Jan 2017
Dr Seuss’ classic is a simple story, open to interpretation. Sally and her brother’s home are invaded by the eponymous cat who, with a fish, two kittens and a couple of Things, all mess up the place in zany fashion. Then they put it all back together again, just in time for Mother’s arrival home.
When I reviewed Paul Taylor Mills’ production of Cat in the Hat, two years ago, it was “high-octane fun from start to finish….perfect for slapstick lovers, with its squeaky rubber balls and comedy falls where no-one is really hurt. It’s the sort of show where you can’t help but get carried away with the excitement and merriment; perfect for bringing some Christmas cheer, without even a snowflake or red costume in sight.”
Mimi and the Mountain Dragon
Bloomsbury Theatre, 13 Dec–31 Dec 2016
Royal Festival Hall, Southbank, 16 Dec–24 Dec
Critically acclaimed cabaret star Le Gateau Chocolat performs in a reimagining of The Ugly Duckling, in his first ever work especially for kids. Duckie is set in an animal circus and is a quirky, humorous and positive look at what it’s like to feel different and how to find one’s place in the world.
Breaking the Ice
Stratford Circus, 19–24 Dec 2016
Mercato Metropolitano, 18 Nov 2016–6 Jan 2017
Strictly speaking, Backyard Cinema is a film screening rather than a show. But the company are known for their immersive, theatrical events and festival atmosphere, so I decided to include it in this list. The Winter Garden is an indoor enchanted forest, where you can watch a festive array of Christmas classics, including Home Alone, Elf, Love Actually and It’s a Wonderful Life.
To access the cinema, customers step through a magical wardrobe, and continue down a secret tunnel of trees, into the woodland. Film-goers can snuggle up under a blanket with a glass of mulled wine and a mince pie, and settle in for a Christmas movie treat.
The Railway Children
Kings Cross Theatre, until 8 Jan 2017
Set in a purpose-built 1,000 seat venue, this show features a stage built around a real train track, and a 60 tonne vintage locomotive that steams onto the stage. The Railway Children was adapted by Mike Kenny in partnership with the National Railway Museum, York, and £1 from the price of every ticket is donated to the charity Railway Children, which helps people living on the streets throughout the world. In keeping with the charity’s aims, poverty and displacement are themes running through E Nesbit’s story; it’s a great tale for Christmas. You can find out here what we thought of the show.
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This is a collaborative post.