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OLT’S summer highlights for families

Published 4 July 2014

Witches are melting, tigers are hydrating… which can mean only one thing; it’s time to take your family to one of the many shows on offer in Theatreland this summer.

There is something for every age group on the capital’s stages over the coming months, and because the weather is too nice to spend inside researching what’s on, we’ve put together a handy selection of some of our favourite family theatrical offerings.

From spectral stories for teenagers to adaptations of your youngest children’s best-loved bedtime stories, read on to discover the vast range of shows that your family can enjoy over the next couple of months.

Theatrical treats for teeny theatregoers

There are plenty of opportunities to introduce your littlest family members to the theatre this summer with everything from famished felines to brief-loving Martians for children aged three and older.

As if that weren’t variety enough, there is a selection of returning hits and exciting first looks at shows receiving premieres to choose from. Old favourites include David Wood’s Olivier Award nominated adaptation of The Tiger Who Came To Tea, which is back at the Lyric Theatre until 7 September. The big cat of its title will be teaching kids how to stay hydrated in the heat by drinking every last drop of Sophie’s family’s water – that’s after he’s gulped all the tea of course – when he visits their house one afternoon. Judith Kerr’s tiger will in fact be wishing he had the drinking capabilities of the title character in the National Theatre’s latest family addition to the West End. Though we’re not sure a ghost elephant is able to suck up 14 litres of water through its trunk all in one go like its living counterpart, The Elephantom certainly sounds like someone we’d like to have over to our house. Unfortunately he chose the home of the little girl in Ross Collins’ picture book instead, but she’s invited us to pop over to the New London Theatre between now and 6 September to join in their elephantastic fun.

Never before seen in London – unless you’ve noticed any UFOs stalking your washing line recently?! – Aliens Love Underpants will take to the stage for the first time this month. The mischievous adaptation of Claire Freedman and Ben Cort’s much-loved picture books about extraterrestrials that land on Earth to steal people’s underwear makes its London premiere at the Leicester Square Theatre on 19 July and will continue to wreak pant-amonium in the capital until the end of August. Equally adorable and just as otherworldly are the creatures gracing the Polka Theatre’s stage this summer. In celebration of the 100th anniversary of author Tove Jansson’s birth, the Wimbledon venue has let her hippo-like creations loose on stage in Moominsummer Madness until 16 August.

A musical menagerie for all the family

The West End has plenty of long-running musicals to entertain the whole family this summer, and some of their stars will be doing more than just singing and dancing to make sure their shows run smoothly in the blazing heat. The chocolate-churning oompa-loompas in Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Sam Mendes’ musical take on Roald Dahl’s dark and delicious tale, will be working extra hard to make sure that Willy Wonka’s sugar-coated creations don’t start melting as they take audiences on a journey through his weird and wonderful factory at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. There will, however, be some intentional melting occurring at the Apollo Victoria Theatre, where the West End’s favourite green-skinned witch is likely to be grateful for the buckets of water being thrown over her during her adventures in Oz-based musical Wicked.

Thankfully the feline inhabitants of the Serengeti Plains in Disney’s The Lion King are more than used to the warmer climate so it’ll be business as usual at the Lyceum Theatre, where the tale of the young lion prince and the evil wrongdoing of his malicious uncle is told through the songs of Elton John. They won’t be the only ones well-equipped for the weather though, as the Greek island-dwellers in Mamma Mia! will be topping up their tans in between performances of the ABBA musical at the Novello Theatre.

A page to stage adaptation for everyone

What’s better than enjoying a good book by the pool, in the park or at the seaside this summer? Taking your children to see their favourite stories on stage! We’ve already mentioned a few of our top page-to-stage adaptations for the tiniest of theatregoers, but even more of your children’s best bedtime reads will be brought to life on stage over the summer holidays, and there really is something for everyone. Families with kids aged six and older should head to the Garrick Theatre from 3 to 31 August to see Terry Deary’s much-loved book series in all their gruesome glory with the return of Horrible Histories – Barmy Britain Part Two. There’s a double whammy at the Vaudeville Theatre for children aged five and older as Jacqueline Wilson’s tale about a feisty Victorian heroine, Hetty Feather, sets up camp at the venue from 5 August to 6 September alongside Michael Morpurgo’s beloved story about the power of books and a young boy’s bravery, I Believe In Unicorns, from 8 to 31 August. For even older children, the West End recently welcomed back Simon Stephens’ Olivier Award-winning adaptation of The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time. In its new home at the Gielgud Theatre, theatregoers aged 11 and older can follow 15-year-old Christopher as he embarks on a journey to discover who murdered his neighbour’s dog.

Spooky shenanigans for older kids

The summer isn’t exactly a spooky time, but with the recent onset of warm weather we could all do with some chilling theatrical experiences to help us out in the scorching sunshine. Ok, so physically we shouldn’t expect many cooling effects from these productions – the interval ice cream should do that – but there will be plenty of chills sent down the spines of young theatregoers who decide to take on Theatreland’s surprising amount of unsettling offerings this summer. While long-running hit The Woman In Black will be going about its usual bloodcurdling business at the Fortune Theatre, the 25-year-old show is joined in the West End this summer by two shows suitable for older teenagers: the Royal Court’s thrilling take on John Ajvide Lindqvist’s vampire myth Let The Right One In, and Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson’s fear-inducing, jump-provoking hit Ghost Stories.

Many of the shows featured here are taking part in Kids Week, our annual promotion offering a free child’s ticket with every full-paying adult. Visit www.kidsweek.co.uk for more details and to book.

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