It used to be just something that happened in American sitcoms and resulted in the odd dodgy costume for a school disco, but now there’s no escaping it, Halloween is one of the UK’s most popular holidays. Luckily it brings with it plenty of spooky, ghoulish theatrical fun.
Because we know you’re all too busy carving pumpkins, creating elaborate costumes for both the kids and the pets – yes, people do that. Google it if you don’t believe me – we’ve put together a handy list of some of the Halloween-inspired family offerings London theatre has planned, from bizarre circuses to classic fairy tales. Many of the shows are running over half-term, so even if 31 October itself will be spent bobbing for apples, there’s plenty of mysterious fun to be had the whole week.
1. The Insect Circus
With an open invitation to dress up in your best “bug-a-boo” glamour, this may be the strangest offering this autumn. Playing at Jacksons Lane theatre from 29 October to 2 November, The Insect Circus offers a host of spectacular bugs, beasts and creepy crawlies who will perform wondrous feats right in front of your boggling eyes. Full of dangerous tricks – and some silly ones too – this show is suitable for everyone from the ages of two to 102, so one for the whole family. Just as long as no one is scared of a giant sized praying mantis that is…
This one probably needs no introduction, but no Halloween feature would be complete without the famous Oz-set musical. Yes, it may be more fun than frightening, but with the wicked witches, amazing spells and special effects, it’s a fantastical trip into a magical world with all the glamour and glitz you’d expect from a big West End musical. You can buy your tickets now here.
3. Lyric Hammersmith gets in the (ghostly) spirit
The Lyric Hammersmith is always up for a celebration and has gone to (ghost) town with a week of workshops jam-packed with Halloween fun. Your children could learn how to write a scary short story, take part in a Halloween-themed musical theatre singing workshop or attend a special FX stage make-up workshop and become a zombie, plus lots more. All workshops are suitable for children aged 11 to 18 and are completely free. Visit the Lyric Hammersmith website for full information and to book.
4. The Snow Spider
Head to the Oval House theatre on 31 October for The Snow Spider, Io Theatre Company’s adaptation of Jenny Nimmo’s award-winning book, and enjoy a pre-show free Halloween party with spooky games, spider art, free refreshments and goodie bags. Suitable for children aged seven plus and playing until 7 November, it’s not only the spider in the title that sounds Halloween relevant; it may not be a ghost story, but it’s just as intriguing. On Gwyn Griffiths’ ninth birthday, everything changes when he receives five strange gifts that unlock the door to a series of exciting discoveries. And that’s all we’re telling you, leaving you hanging like the show’s silver spider from its mystical web…
5. The Halloween Magic Show
For something a bit different – if it’s possible to get more different than a circus full of insects – prepare to be amazed and awed at Jermyn Street theatre’s The Halloween Magic Show. Created with the whole family in mind, audiences will see headless ghosts, decapitated heads that go apple bobbing and are promised spooky tricks and ghostly treats galore.
6. Polka Theatre
From 30 November, Polka Theatre will present Mike Kenny’s new adaptation of the classic fairy tale Red Riding Hood. While wolves who like to dress up as grandmas are frightening enough, you can also book your kids on one of two Halloween workshops. First up is the chance for seven to 11 year olds to be a make-up artist for a day and learn some spooky make-up tricks. For younger children aged five to seven, 31 October holds a treat in store with Halloween Shadows, a workshop where participants will learn how to create light sculptures, lanterns and ghostly shadow puppets. Visit the Polka theatre website for more information.
7. The Woman In Black
For families with older children, Halloween is the perfect chance to catch The Woman In Black. A West End classic it tells the story of Arthur Kipps, a junior solicitor who is summoned to tend to the affairs of Mrs Alice Drablow, the sole inhabitant of a particularly sinister house with hidden secrets which lie hidden behind the shuttered windows. You can book tickets now here.
On top of Chickenshed’s usual schedule of fun activities and colourful productions for children, the theatre is holding a one-off spooky storytelling workshop on 31 October. Free to attend, the workshop will take place at Peter Jones Department Store in Sloane Square and is a fun-packed interactive performance full of storytelling, songs and dancing for children from 0 to seven years. Visit the Chickenshed website for full details.
9. The Tear Thief
While not strictly spooky or ghostly, The Tear Thief is still worthy of a place on our list. A modern fairy tale, Carol Ann Duffy’s story tells of the Tear Thief who every night carries her waterproof, silvery sack as she steals the tears of every child who cries. But what does she do with all those tears? With a recorded soundtrack by actress Juliet Stevenson, this Little Angel theatre production makes it on to the list for its intriguing, mysterious sounding story.
10. Thriller Live
To celebrate the spookiest night of the year, West End favourite Thriller Live has had a ghoulish makeover for Halloween, preparing a week of shocks and surprises. 50 lucky children from Holmleigh School in Hackney will take part in a special zombie dance workshop and photocall, but the general public can also get in on the chilling action. While the theatre itself will be decorated by art students from West Thames College London and St Charles Catholic Sixth Form College with spooky, chilling themes, audiences will have the chance to guess which Thriller Live star has carved which pumpkin in the Upper Circle bar. Plus, as you leave the theatre, all theatregoers will receive a spooky treat from the ushers dressed as witches and devils for the occasion. Book your tickets now here.
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