The best Christmas shows to see in London, at theatres and online – Evening Standard
ure, we’re still on tenterhooks to find out what kind of post-lockdown world we’ll be emerging into, but we’re choosing to be optimistic about making this the most festive season we can for theatrelovers. We’ve made a list, we’ve checked it twice — here are the Christmas shows, in real life and online, to book now.
2020: it’s been an utter ‘mare (oh yes it has). The National Theatre don’t normally do pantos, but then this hasn’t been a normal year — most other theatres across the capital were forced to cancel theirs, so the NT is helping to keep this very British festive tradition alive. Created by Jude Christian and Cariad Lloyd, it promises to be full of jokes, songs and silliness.
Pantoland at the Palladium
Hurrah! Another sign that the rumours of Christmas’s demise this year have been (hopefully) exaggerated: the Palladium’s star-studded annual panto is back. Audiences will be in the trusted and fabulous hands of Julian Clary and Elaine Paige for a show-stopping extravaganza, also starring Beverley Knight, Charlie Stemp and Ashley Banjo & Diversity.
If pantos on speed is your thing — you never know — then this Olivier-nominated show is for you. Created by comedy duo Dan and Jeff, it features seven pantos in 70 minutes, taking audiences on a whistle-stop slapstick ride from Dick Whittington to Cinderella.
A Christmas Carol
Don’t fret thesps, it’s not all going to be custard pies and Dick jokes this Christmas. Respected actors Simon Russell Beale, Patsy Ferran and Eben Figueiredo will be forming a trio to play all the parts in Dicken’s festive fable at the Bridge, directed by Nicholas Hytner.
Nine Lessons and Carols: Stories for a Long Winter
The Almeida reopens its doors with a show specially devised for the moment that we’re living through. Director Rebecca Frecknall and playwright Chris Bush will work with a company of six actors to address themes of connection, isolation and what it’s been like to live in a year of so little social contact. Will it make us blub? Probably.
( Tristram Kenton )
The festive magic that we need, and the festive magic that we deserve: the Royal Ballet’s pretty-as-a-picture production of The Nutcracker will be back this Christmas. The much-loved show has been made Covid-safe, but everyone’s favourite scenes are still here, from the Sugar Plum Fairy’s pas de deux with her prince to the jaw-dropping giant Christmas tree.
The Little Match Girl
More premium entertainment for all the family, this time at Sadler’s Wells: Arthur Pita’s top notch production of one of Hans Christian Andersen’s weepier tales returns for another year, as a young girl wanders the streets on Christmas Eve, with only one match left to keep her warm.
Cinderella: The Socially Distanced Ball
Suffice to say the slippers we have been wearing all year have NOT been made out of glass, but we still support Cinderella’s need for a good night out. Written by Jodie Prenger and Neil Hurst, with a cast including Rufus Hound, this adult pantomime comes with a disclaimer that it is not for ‘the faint-hearted and those easily offended by smut’.
West End Musical Christmas: Live at the Palace Theatre
For just six performances, some of the most talented stars of musical theatre — including Layton Williams, Rachel John and Sophie Evans — will be belting out all the big tunes. There will be surprise special guests, and it’s all for a good cause — a percentage of the profits will go to the charity Acting For Others.
The Gruffalo’s Child
Even a global pandemic cannot stop Julia Donaldson’s wart-riddled troll-like creature that kids seem to actually like from being an unstoppable force. This stage adaptation of her much-loved book comes to Ally Pally this Christmas (another of her books, Stick Man, is being staged at Rose Theatre Kingston).
Alice in Streamingland
Alice has fallen down a different rabbit hole this Christmas: like all of us, she is addicted to streaming platforms. Audiences will be seated at dedicated cabaret tables for this so-called ‘pansexual musical pantomime’ which features songs and live cameras and sounds like an absolute riot.
Say it’s carol singers. Then sneak out to Rose Theatre Kingston to see brilliantly rambunctious duo Rebecca Biscuit and Louise Mothersdale AKA Sh!t Theatre remake the Richard Curtis Christmas classic in their own very special way.
Dear Santa Live
Recommended for children between the ages of two and six, this stage production of Rod Campbell’s much-loved lift-the-flap picture book features a simple story, lots of singing and some audience participation.
A Christmas Carol
Jack Thorne’s adaptation of Dickens’s tale has been a crowdpleaser at the Old Vic for the last few Christmases, and this year it returns again — albeit in very different circumstances. Andrew Lincoln will take on the role of Scrooge, with the show broadcast live from the theatre’s auditorium into homes around the world each night.
The Fairytale Revolution
Wendy is getting fed up of cleaning up after Peter Pan and his pals as they go off for another adventure so she teams up with Captain Hook, and even the narrator isn’t safe from her feminist ire. The Fairytale Revolution, a previous hit at Theatre503, has been reimagined as an interactive, online production which will be livestreamed to audiences each night. Free tickets are available for schools, hospitals, care homes and low income households.
Die Another Dame
The new Bond film, No Time to Die, was one of the many cinematic casualties of this year (its release has been delayed by 12 months and counting), but never mind. This interactive murder mystery event, performed live on Zoom, is about a 007 superfan who has written a Bond-themed panto — and subsequently gone missing. It’s what Sean Connery would have wanted.
The Snow Queen
Go on a snowy adventure without even leaving the house — inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, this interactive online show from Iris Theatre is aimed at children aged four and over. It even includes a free activity pack for families to download afterwards, featuring games and craft ideas inspired by the show.
A Christmas Carol
This beautifully reimagined version of A Christmas Carol won’t be available to watch online — its producers have decided to only screen it in cinemas and theatres to support struggling venues. It features world-class dancers performing the roles on screen (including BalletBoyz founder Michael Nunn as Scrooge), with an all-star cast lending their voices. Listen out for Daniel Kaluuya, Carey Mulligan, Andy Serkis and Leslie Caron.