Olive Loves Alfie’s Guide To The Family Christmas Theatre Season

With so much to choose from, it can be hard to make your mind up for a festive treat at Christmas.  But with competition keener than ever between different venues, the Christmas show is attracting the most dynamic playwrights, directors, designers and performers in contemporary theatre to create magical shows for children, so there are some mouthwatering options for all ages this year. Here are some hot tips that will give you and your kids a taste of top quality live performance and spectacle this Christmas season.

Top pick is FEATHERS IN THE SNOW at Southwark Playhouse by Philip Ridley, renowned children’s author (KRINDLEKRAX, SCRIBBLEBOY) and leading playwright (TENDER NAPALM, THE FASTEST CLOCK IN THE UNIVERSE). With a massive cast and an epic narrative, expect a celebration of the power of storytelling with unforgettable language and exciting visuals.

There are at least four different versions of CINDERELLA in London this year, but the most adventurous is bound to be MIDNIGHT’S PUMPKIN by the celebrated Kneehigh company at BAC, those specialists in the reinvention of fairy tales (previous hits include THE RED SHOES and the wonderful RAPUNZEL). Recommended age 6+.

There are also four different versions of Dickens’ A CHRISTMAS CAROL, but we’d bank on the one at Waterloo East Theatre being the freshest and most interesting. It’s directed by Tim Carroll, who did the current Mark Rylance productions of TWELFTH NIGHT and Richard III in the West End, and is performed by Dominic Gerrard with a host of puppets. Ages 9+.

If you want to splash out, the big dance event is MATTHEW BOURNE’S SLEEPING BEAUTY at Sadler’s Wells with its ravishing Gothic take on Tchaikovsky. The show is Bourne’s third in a trilogy of classic adaptations that began with the legendary SWAN LAKE. Or there’s a tempting prospect at the National Theatre, where renowned director Katie Mitchell and rising playwright Lucy Kirkwood present a new version of HANSEL AND GRETEL for children aged 7-10.

The one that really grabs the eye is IN A PICKLE at the Unicorn, where the perennially excellent children’s theatre company Oily Cart team up with the RSC to create a magical show exploring the weird and wonderful landscapes of Shakespeare’s imagination for a very young audience (ages 2-5). But it’s also worth checking out THE HOUSE WHERE WINTER LIVES, by Punchdrunk Enrichment, for children aged 3-6 at Discover Children’s Story Centre on High Holborn – taking the children into a cottage in a winter wonderland, it’s bound to use interactive ideas with special inventiveness and an anarchic sense of fun.

For those with a yen for traditional Christmas panto, our very own Hackney Empire or Theatre Royal Stratford East both reliably come up with the goods each year, with DICK WHITTINGTON AND HIS CAT at the former and JACK AND THE BEANSTALK playing at the latter.

Our hot Panto tip this season, though, is CINDERELLA at the Lyric Hammersmith, where Artistic Director Sean Holmes takes charge of the Christmas offering and ought to breathe some exciting new life into the genre without sabotaging any of its time-honoured pleasures.

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