A Christmas cracker for all the family

Reporter: Caroline Bishop, first published Thu 19 Nov 2009 14:11

“If the family can take the kids out and have a lot of fun and they’re talking about that for weeks afterwards, then that’s a wonderful, wonderful gift that we can pass on, and we should do that, it’s important that we pass on these gifts to our children.”

He is a wise man, Clive Rowe. Having already played so many panto dames he has lost count, Rowe returns to the Hackney Empire again this year to step into the large and colourful shoes of the ultimate dame, Widow Twanky. The show is just one of a huge and varied line-up of festive family fare in London this Christmas season. There is so much, in fact, that you are spoilt for choice. It may not make your decision any easier, but here is a rundown of the capital’s most tinsel-tastic theatrical treats.

To find out more about each show, including booking details, click on the show title.


Cabaret Simon / Barbican Pit / age 4-10
The world’s funniest Simon hosts this cabaret show especially for kids.

The Cat In The Hat / National Theatre / age 3-6
In her first National Theatre show for children, Katie Mitchell directs a cat in a very large red-and-white striped hat.

Charlie And Lola’s Best Bestest Play / Hampstead theatre / age 3-6
Puppets, magic and music bring to life the characters from Lauren Child’s picture books.

Christmas Baking Time / Lyric Hammersmith / age 3-6
A pair of bakers battle through flour snowstorms in this fun new show by Oily Cart.

The Forest / Young Vic / age 5-7
A multi-sensory experience from acclaimed theatre company Fevered Sleep.

The Gruffalo / Apollo theatre / age 3+
Another chance to see this adaptation of Julia Donaldson’s picture book about a creature that lurks in the forest. 

James And The Giant Peach / Polka theatre / age 6-11
The Wimbledon children’s theatre celebrates its 30th birthday with this adaptation of Roald Dahl’s fruit-based tale.

Jelly Bean Jack / Roundhouse / age 3+
Jack, a magic beanstalk and a fearsome giant as you have never seen them before in Little Angel’s puppet production.

Stick Man / Soho theatre / age 4+
A dog, a swan and a bonfire make Stick Man’s life a little tricky in this stage show based on Julia Donaldson’s book.

Them With Frozen Tails / Roundhouse / age 5+
Two funnymen tell some seasonal stories from around the world, with the help of a few arctic animals and the audience.


A Christmas Carol / Arts theatre / age 5+
Gareth Hale stars as Christmas-hating Sidney, who becomes trapped in a theatre and forced to play Scrooge in Dickens’s festive classic.

Cinderella / Unicorn theatre / age 6+
A retirement home for magicians is the setting for this modern, screwball version of the classic fairytale.

Footsbarn’s Christmas Cracker
/ Shakespeare’s Globe / all ages
The first festive show at Shakespeare’s Globe promises a carnival atmosphere and an array of ridiculous characters inspired by the work of the Bard.

Nation / National Theatre / age 10+
Hopes are high for the National Theatre’s latest family show, an adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s epic novel about the aftermath of a tsunami.

Peter Pan / O2 Meridian Gardens / age 5+
Another chance to see the special effects that wowed the crowds in Kensington Gardens this summer.

Pinocchio / Chickenshed / all ages
A cast of 200 are brought together by Chickenshed to tell the tale of the wooden boy who wanted to be real.

Potted Potter / Trafalgar Studio 2 / age 6+
The novelty of live Quidditch hasn’t worn off; Dan and Jeff return to London with their stage romp through all seven Harry Potter books. 

Sandi Toksvig’s Christmas Cracker / Royal Festival Hall / all ages
Pint-sized comedy stalwarts Sandi Toksvig and Ronnie Corbett host this music-hall style entertainment show.

Skellig / Bloomsbury theatre / age 7+
Birmingham Stage Company’s adaptation of David Almond’s popular novel about a mysterious creature.

Treasure Island / Rose theatre / age 6+
Kingston’s Rose theatre is transformed into a pirate’s paradise for this rowdy version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s adventure on the high seas.


Aladdin / Hackney Empire / all ages
The highlight of Hackney’s theatrical calendar is the much-loved panto by writer/director Susie McKenna and composer Steve Edis, starring Clive Rowe as the legendary Twanky.

Aladdin / New Wimbledon theatre / age 18 months+
The unusual quartet of Pamela Anderson, Anita Dobson, Paul O’Grady and Ruby Wax share genie duties while Brian Blessed returns as Abanazar.

Jack And The Beanstalk / Lyric Hammersmith / all ages
The Lyric Hammersmith’s first pantomime is a classic boo-fest created by a quartet of top-notch writers.

Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs / Richmond theatre / all ages
Richmond theatre’s classic offering sees the domesticated dwarves and their pale-faced interloper hotly pursued by Jane Asher, who plays the Wicked Queen.  


The Enchanted Pig / Royal Opera House / age 6+
A pick and mix of fairytales in this family opera about a princess who is fated to marry a smelly pig.

Les Patineurs/Tales Of Beatrix Potter / Royal Opera House / 5+
Jemima Puddleduck and Mrs Tiggywinkle get their ballet shoes on in the Royal Ballet’s family-friendly double-bill.

Pied Piper / Barbican theatre / age 10+
Inspired by The Pied Piper Of Hamelin, this explosive hip hop dance show has plenty of followers of its own.

Into The Hoods / Queen Elizabeth Hall / all ages
Spinderella and Rap-on-Zel return to London in this urban dance version of Stephen Sondheim’s Into The Woods.

The Snowman / Peacock theatre / all ages
It wouldn’t be Christmas without Raymond Briggs’s tale of a snowman who whisks a young boy on a midnight flight across a snowy land.

The Snow Queen and The Nutcracker / London Coliseum / 5+ (family matinees all ages)
Children under 16 go free to two special matinees of these wintry classics performed by English National Ballet.