If there’s ever an excuse to take your little ones to the theatre it’s at Christmas, when you can escape the cold wintry weather in one of the capital’s iconic venues and enjoy a theatrical festive treat for all the family. This Yuletide season, London’s Theatreland boasts an ‘elfy number of cracking Christmas productions, with everything from family favourites to festive firsts set to get audiences in the Christmas spirit.
Because we know you’re busy wrapping presents, singing seasonal songs and baking batch upon batch of mince pies, we’ve made things just that little bit easier by gathering together all the family friendly festive highlights settling down for a Christmas in London’s dazzling theatre district. Be it a sprinkling of snow or a raucous pantomime, you can find it here in our handy Christmas round-up.
With Christmas come reindeer and robins, penguins and polar bears. Even the occasional donkey. But not this year. These conventional creatures are stepping aside to let a whole host of less traditional family favourites inside the West End’s theatres to delight adults and children alike with their popular tales. Tall Stories’ hit adaptation of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s award-winning picture book about every child’s favourite monster The Gruffalo is playing at the Lyric theatre, while, down the road at the Criterion theatre, Peppa Pig, the only porker not to be wrapped in bacon and served with Christmas dinner, is making a Big Splash for a fourth consecutive London season. But that famous pink swine and loveable monster better watch out because not too far away at the Phoenix theatre a pack of terrifying dinosaurs is looking for its next meal as Dinosaur Zoo comes to the West End following a successful summer run at the Regent’s Park Open Air theatre.
It’s snow time
There’s only one thing that can make a child smile more than a stocking laden with presents and that’s the unexpected arrival of that magical white stuff falling from the sky. Because we know that we can’t rely on the British weather to deliver such an important gift, London’s Theatreland has the answer this festive season with an inundation of shows based on the much-loved precipitation. From Raymond Briggs’ hugely popular tale The Snowman, which returns to the Peacock theatre for its 16th consecutive year, to an icy effigy of an altogether different kind, The Snow Gorilla, which is brought to life by Brian Blessed’s booming voice at the Rose Theatre Kingston, there is a snow-steeped story for everyone to enjoy during the festive period. Throw in the dream-like world of Slava’s Snowshow at the Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall and the Bloomsbury theatre’s festive offering Snow Play, and the odds are certainly on for a white Christmas in the capital.
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas in Theatreland without a healthy helping of familiar faces, vengeful villains and cross-dressing dames, not to mention the incessant cry of “He’s behind you!” emanating from auditoriums across the city. This panto season welcomes actors well-known to the West End stage as well as those better known for their performances elsewhere to theatres in all corners of the capital. At the Lyric Hammersmith, The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time’s Howard Ward and Lyric panto regular Steven Webb are giving the traditional tale of Jack And The Beanstalk a modern twist with the addition of a fitness dance craze, while stars in the east include Olivier Award nominees Sharon D Clarke and Josefina Gabrielle, who both appear in the Hackney Empire’s 2013 festive offering Puss In Boots alongside furry residents from the Battersea Dogs & Cats Home. Well-known to the stage, but not necessarily in an acting capacity, comedienne Jo Brand and Britain’s Got Talent finalists Flawless will be transporting audiences at the New Wimbledon theatre all the way to the Far East where a fun-filled world of fairytales awaits in the form of classic pantomime Aladdin. Can’t decide which one to see? Fear not, you can head to the Vaudeville theatre where acclaimed CBBC duo Dan and Jeff will be hurtling through seven of the much-loved festive productions in just 80 hectic minutes with the West End return of Potted Panto.
For something different this Christmas, why not try some of the festive fare on offer from the Royal Opera House? Not only is Will Tuckett’s acclaimed production of The Wind In The Willows becoming the first of the iconic venue’s productions ever to commercially transfer into the West End, but the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Studio theatre will also host the world premiere of children’s opera How The Whale Became. It may not be your typical Christmas cracker, but Kenneth Grahame’s classic tale about – oh, we can’t resist – mistle-Toad and his fellow woodland creatures, playing at the Duchess theatre, and the new opera based on a collection of stories by former Poet Laureate Ted Hughes, are sure to put a smile on everyone’s face this Christmas.