A piece of consumer advice regarding theatre
Written for Everything Theatre
A white Christmas in London might be a certainty in rom-coms only, there are definitely some other things we can count on around this time of year. There’ll be too many pantomimes to choose from, more family shows than parents know what to do with and a lot of difficulty for people who just can’t sit through another stage adaptation of It’s a Wonderful Life (or something similarly festive). Fortunately all you lovely readers have been on our ‘nice’ list this year, so we’re going to help you out with a small selection of the best London has to offer this festive season.
You like: pop songs, glitter and shouting ‘Behind you!’
Let’s get the inevitable out of the way: like every other year, London theatres big and small have together produced an astonishing line-up of pantomimes. Whether you like yours family-friendly, star-studded or downright dirty, we’re sure you’ll find your fit, Cinderella.
We’ll kick off with the obvious one: the Hackney Empire does Jack and the Beanstalk this year. Clive Rowe is always a sight to behold in his Dame dresses, and also probably the only Olivier-winning actor you’re going to see in a panto any time soon. Other theatres famous for their pantomimes are the Lyric Hammersmith and the New Wimbledon Theatre; the first one has a Cinderella that’s all neon and twinkly lights, the latter has Verne Troyer (AKA Mini Me) starring in Peter Pan. Theatre Royal Stratford East has a reputation for inclusive, fun pantos with a political edge, so one can only imagine what artistic director Kerry Michael will do with ‘steal from the rich, give to the poor’ Robin Hood. (We hope it involves George Osborne playing the Sheriff, but that’s probably just wishful thinking.) Theatre503 is home once again to comedy trio Sleeping Trees, who have created an interesting mash-up in Cinderella and the Beanstalk. If mixing up fairy tales isn’t quite risqué enough for you, the Royal Vauxhall Tavern is only one of many venues with an ‘adult boys and girls only’ programme. Charming Dick, their take on Dick Wittington, has some serious star power in Martin Finch, Poland’s 2010 Eurovision entry. Spectators can also expect sing-a-longs, a Wicked Witch from the West End and, presumably, plenty of Dick. And last but not least, don’t forget about your local theatre! They could probably use your support, so tickets to their pantomime will not just make a lovely present for the recipients.
Jack and the Beanstalk: Hackney Empire, until 3 January
Cinderella: Lyric Hammersmith, until 3 January
Peter Pan: New Wimbledon, until 10 January
Robin Hood: Theatre Royal Stratford East, until 23 January
Cinderella and the Beanstalk: Theatre503, until 2 January
Charming Dick: Royal Vauxhall Tavern, until 7 January
You like: family entertainment with a little less audience participation
Looking for something a bit more high brow to keep the kids entertained over the holidays? In that case you’ll be happy to learn not all theatres have gone down panto lane.
Southwark Playhouse’s The Ballad of Robin Hood offers a fresh, slightly darker take on the familiar story, and our reviewer was seriously impressed by the ‘strong women, cool sword fights and witty repartee’. The Old Vic brings Dr Seuss’s The Lorax to the stage, complete with puppets and music, and apparently suitable for ages six to sixty two and a half. In North London, Chickenshed has once again brought together a huge cast of all ages and abilities to put on their annual Christmas spectacle. This year it’s an elaborate re-working of the famous carol, so The Twelve Days of Christmas will undoubtedly put the whole family in festive spirits. Parents of slightly older children could have a look at the Noël Coward’s A Christmas Carol; it’s one of those plays that you have to have seen at least once, and Jim Broadbent’s presence will appeal to a wide range of ages, whether you belong to the Harry Potter or the Black Adder generation. Finally, if you’re really after some proper ‘high culture’, why not surprise your teenager with some extra-curricular Shakespeare? The National Theatre’s production of As You Like It features a forest of computer screens and floating desk chairs, a WWE-style wrestling match and the return of Treasure Island favourite Patsy Ferran.
The Ballad of Robin Hood: Southwark Playhouse, until 26 December
The Lorax: Old Vic, until 16 January
The Twelve Days of Christmas: Chickenshed Theatre, until 9 January
A Christmas Carol: Noël Coward Theatre, until 30 January
As You Like It: National Theatre, until 5 March
You like: death. Destruction. Anything but Christmas.
Hate carols, hot chocolate and general cheer? Not to worry! With an abundance of sex, filth and murder, even those in the least festive of moods can still get their theatre fix this holiday season.
For a steamy Christmas date with a bit more cultural credence than popping in the Fifty Shades of Grey DVD, Les Liaisons Dangereuses at the Donmar Warehouse is just the ticket. Two aristocratic ex-lovers challenge each other to see who’s the best at corrupting the innocent; how explicitly sexy this one is going to be is anyone’s guess of yet, but it should at the very least feature some intense smouldering. The more literal kind of theatre filth will be provided by The Dazzle. The play, which is going to be housed in brand new pop-up theatre Found111, features Andrew Scott as a man who shares a house with his brother, and with 136 tonnes of junk. And if even that’s not radically un-Christmassy enough for you, you can always go for something with a higher body count. Martin McDonagh’s Hangmen, a dark comedy about England’s last executioner, has just transferred from the Royal Court to the West End, while the Young Vic offers a physical theatre production of Macbeth, directed by Carrie Cracknell and Lucy Guerin.
Les Liaisons Dangereuses: Donmar Warehouse, until 13 February
The Dazzle: Found111, until 30 January
Hangmen: Wyndhams Theatre, until 5 March
Macbeth: Young Vic, until 23 January
So, that’s your holidays sorted. Well, except a tree. And presents. And the patience to deal with your entire family for a whole day. Anyway, you’re welcome. And merry Christmas!