The jolliest Christmas shows for children
Witches, snow queens and scissorhanded suburban goths, this year’s festive family shows have it all, says Nick Clark
AS the school holidays approach, what better way to keep your little ones from trashing the house than taking them to a Christmas show? London has a wealth of great theatre, dance and other performances aimed at children of all ages, and our picks are below. As for pantos, they’re behind you! (Well, over the page)
Royal Opera House
If you’re in search of Christmas magic this one of several Nutcrackers is definitely the OG. The Royal Ballet’s traditional production is dripping with sweetness and laden with sparkle, and it has an actual, growing, magic Christmas tree.
⬤ From December 6 to January 13; roh. org.uk
This brand new adaptation of Roald Dahl’s twisty classic is an absolute triumph (hear our critics rave about it on the Standard Theatre Podcast). Candy coloured, with a witty script from Lucy Kirkwood and a fantastic score by Dave Malloy, it’s as much fun for adults (often slightly more, if you listen carefully) as for children. And the kids’ performances are just knock-out. For ages eight to 88.
⬤ To January 27; nationaltheatre.org.uk
The Snow Queen
Wimbledon’s wonderful children’s theatre hasn’t looked back since reopening in 2021 after an £8.5 million refurbishment. This Christmas it has pulled off something of a coup with rising theatre star Jude Christian adapting Hans Christian Andersen’s classic The Snow Queen. Christian promises a show that’s “noisy and caring and masses of fun about the adventure of growing up together”. For ages six to 12.
⬤ To January 21; Polkatheatre.com
Battersea Arts Centre
The BAC is a wonderfully atmospheric building — just ask those who saw Punchdrunk Theatre’s Masque of the Red Death. This festive season there is an immersive experience for the whole family with Solstice, created by the company Wild Rumpus. This takes the audience on a journey through the BAC’s corridors and hidden spaces, which double as a winter wonderland with magical woodland characters appearing at every turn. For ages three and up.
⬤ From December 1 to 24; bac.org.uk
Bluey’s Big Play
Bluey is one of the few children’s TV shows that has the ability to delight parents and their offspring in equal measure, and over the Christmas period, she’s taking up residency at the Royal Festival Hall. Everyone’s favourite Blue Heeler from Oz will be brought to life in puppet form in a brand new story by Bluey creator Joe Brumm. For all ages.
⬤ From December 20 to January 7; southbankcentre.co.uk
Hansel and Gretel
In the magical space of the Globe comes a new adaptation of the classic fairy tale by poet laureate Simon Armitage. “Filled with music, magic,
songs and a sprinkling of hope,” this will be a treat for anyone over five.
⬤ From December 8 to January 7; shakespearesglobe.com
What better time to return to the magical realm of Neverland than at Christmas? After Peter Pan crashes through the open window of Wendy Darling’s bedroom a miraculous adventure awaits. In a brand new take on JM Barrie’s much-loved classic, this production promises to have audiences — from five years old and up — completely hooked.
From December 1 to January 7; rosetheatre.org
Theatre Peckham is offering audiences the chance to let their hair down with this “modern day hairy-tale with a few twists”. A musical-inspired, pantoesque Christmas show, this new take on Rapunzel is set in a vibrant Peckham hairdresser’s. Suitable for all ages. From December 5 to 24; theatrepeckham.co.uk
The Toymaker’s Child
Pioneering theatre company Chickenshed have an updated take on the Pinocchio story in which the toymaker 3D prints an AI child, serial number PIN:0Cch10, but things quickly get out of control. It promises that the stage will be filled with “wonder, beauty, and just a touch of delightful chaos”.
⬤ From November 29 to January 13; chickenshed.org. uk
Peppa Pig’s Fun Day Out Theatre Royal Haymarket
Peppa Pig, the being that seems to hold complete control over all children under five, is returning to the West End. There will be much singing, dancing and, presumably jumping in muddy puddles. Suitable for all, even parents.
⬤ From November 30 to December 31; trh.co.uk
Old Bauble Factory
In this hour-long walk-through adventure, families head into the magical world of Wishmas (in the slightly less magical location of Waterloo), where no wish is ever forgotten, and where they may even come face to face with Father Christmas himself. For all ages.
⬤ To January 7; wishmas.co.uk
Charlie Cook’s Favourite Book
Little Angel Studios
This reunites director Samantha Lane and adapter Barb Junger in the story of Charlie attempting to convince his sister that reading isn’t boring.
⬤ From December 1 to February 4, littleangeltheatre.com
The Gruffalo’s Child
The sequel to Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s blockbuster book The Gruffalo is also by theatre company Tall Stories, and heading to the West End.
⬤ From December 1 to January 7; thegarricktheatre.co.uk
Edward Scissorhands at Sadler’s Wells
Matthew Bourne’s dance version of the film would work well for older children, with its American gothic aesthetic and its message of accepting difference. It doesn’t hit the emotions particularly hard, but it’s a lot of fun.
⬤ From December 13 to January 20; sadlerswells.com
Pirates! at The Place
Scottish Dance Theatre
This dance/theatre/storytelling hybrid commissioned by The Place is a gutsy, energetic story of identity and friendship, and the fact that the greatest treasure might be just under your nose. Oh and, crucially, there are zombies.
⬤ December 16-24; theplace.org.uk
English National Ballet give the Royal a run for their money with this lovely, version of the Tchaikovsky classic, with the fabulous addition of a hot air balloon.
⬤ From December 14 to January 7; londoncoliseum.org
Hansel and Gretel
Royal Opera House
Anthony McDonald’s exquisite production of Engelbert Humperdinck’s children’s opera, based on the Grimm brothers’ fairy tale, is not only delicious, it’s also a brilliant way to put them off sweets for life. Suitable for all ages, as long as they can sit through two hours, which let’s face it, would be a true Christmas miracle. ⬤ From December 16 to January 7; roh.org.
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