If you’re travelling to the UK this Winter and want an authentic Christmas experience, pantomime’s a must. British pantomime was developed as a Christmas and New Year tradition, and has its roots in the Italian commedia dell’arte of the 16th century. Since then it’s developed into a unique blend of theatre: a traditional fairy tale told through humour, cross-dressing, slapstick, double entendre and lots of riotous shouting from the audience.
From super-sized dames with flashing bloomers to dastardly villains that the crowd love to hate, pantomime is the festive season lived large. The art form isn’t for everyone – if you’re not a fan of crowd participation and audience sing-a-longs, you might end up cringing in places. But the kids go wild for pantos.
Here are a few London pantomimes that are tipped to be excellent (and if pantos aren’t your thing but you’d still like to catch a festive performance, check out my other post on top London family shows for Christmas).
Performed in the Spiegeltent of Victoria Park’s free Winter festival, Snow White is produced by a well-established Hackney-based theatre company, Tour de Force. If Snow White sounds like your sort of panto, and you want to make a whole day of it, there are plenty of other family attractions on offer at Hackney’s Winterville, including a market, ice rink, Moscow State Circus, Santa’s Grotto and cinema.
Saturday 28 Nov-Wed 23 Dec. Tickets are £9.50 for children; £12 for adults.
We have a set of family tickets (four people) for Snow White at Winterville up for grabs. All you need to do is comment and fill in the rafflecopter at the bottom of this post. Tweeting about the giveaway and visiting our facebook page give you more entries, but aren’t compulsory. Terms and conditions apply.
Red Riding Hood at Greenwich Theatre
Red Riding Hood is Greenwich Theatre’s tenth anniversary panto, and also the tenth that has starred Andrew Pollard, described by the Sunday Times as ‘an A-list Pantomime dame’ for his part in last year’s production. As well as starring, Andrew Pollard has also written and directs this show, performed in traditional panto style. The Greenwich performances are usually feted as being among the best-quality London pantomimes of the year.
Friday 20 Nov-Sunday 10 Jan 2016. Adult tickets £29, with children going half-price.
This performance, directed by Ellen McDougall (described by Lyn Gardner in the Guardian as “one of a select band of rising young directors”) is sure to be an inventive, entertaining take on the old tale. It stars Krystal Dockery as Cinderella, and pundits at the Lyric say of the show: “Grab your glittery Converse and put the pumpkin into top gear as Cinderella heads to the biggest party of the season to meet a very charming Prince.”
21 November–3 January 2016. Tickets range from £15 – £35, or £15 for under-16s.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at Hoxton Hall
If you’re quick, you might just be able to catch this first ever panto in one of the last surviving saloon style Victorian music halls. This performance is described as having an ‘East End Twist’, and the show would be a good pitstop while checking out some of the area’s iconographic street art. It features aerialist Will Davis as the Forest Fairy, displaying his skills by gliding through the air on silks; and children from the local area.
Saturday 19-Thurs 24 Dec. Tickets from £10.
Performed in Finsbury Park’s new theatre (only established in 2013), Rapunzel is set to be a quirky take on the story made even popular by Disney’s Tangled. The show’s blurb describes it as the “third and wackiest instalment of the Chronicles of Waa“. Sir Ian McKellan, no less, said of a previous year’s performance that it had “Fantastic performers. Wonderful script. Very funny. Panto lives!”
3 Dec-2 Jan 2016. Tickets are £25/£20 or £23/£18 for concessions.
Panto lives indeed. These are only a few of the many top-quality London pantomimes on offer. Here are some more which might also tickle your fancy:
Cinderella and the Beanstalk, Theatre 503, Battersea
Dick Whittington and His Cat, Wiltons, Wapping
Disclosure: we were offered press tickets to some of these performances, including family tickets to give away for Snow White at Winterville. All views are my own.