Watch out for snowball-throwing robots! 25 of the best stage shows in the UK this Christmas

Christmas in the sun

Unicorn, London, November 17-December 31
Ola Ince, one of today’s most exciting directors, directs a new play by rising star Yasmin Joseph (author of J’Ouvert) in the Licorne studio. For ages three to six, it’s about a boy visiting his family in the Caribbean for the first time. Meanwhile, artistic director Justin Audibert stages Pinocchio in the main room.

midnight mole

The Egg, Bath, 9-31 December
A festive Chekhov for children under four? It’s the kind of surprise you expect from the excellent Egg Theater. In this puppet adventure, Madame Ranevsky gets a new perspective on her cherry orchard, thanks to animal pals. From the team behind the popular Snow Mouse.

Once upon a time there was a snowstorm

Traverse, Edinburgh, 9-23 December
Illustrator Richard Johnson’s picture book, about a boy separated from his father and taken in by a gang of animals, is adapted by Lyra for children aged five to eight. On December 17, Johnson is accompanying performances for a draw your own bear event.

Loosey-goosey … John Bishop and Ian McKellen.

Loosey-goosey … John Bishop and Ian McKellen. Photograph: Scott Garfitt/Invision/AP

Mother hen

Touring the UK and Ireland, December 15-April 1
Almost 20 years after his legendary Widow Twankey at the Old Vic, Ian McKellen returns to panto country alongside John Bishop in a show written by Jonathan Harvey and directed by Cal McCrystal. Playing across nine venues, including a run through the West End at Christmas, it’s sure to hatch plenty of puns.

Crackers: a festive family stuffing

Polka theatre, London, 19 November-15 January
The family theater wonderland of Wimbledon has a festive season with the return of Sarah Argent’s irresistible grandfather, Me and Teddy Too. Charles Way’s Crackers follows the Christmas Day shenanigans of a family who run a pet store and seem to have misplaced Napoleon the rat.

Belle and Sebastian

Bristol Old Vic, December 2-January 8
Cécile Aubry’s 1960s story of a boy and his Pyrenean mountain dog is brought to life in a 50-minute studio production directed by Heidi Vaughan, starring Felix Hayes and Mogali Masuku, and co-produced with Traveling Light. Expect snowy peaks and wet noses in a story of loyal friends.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Tron, Glasgow, 23 November-8 January
Panto supremo Johnny McKnight writes and directs the annual Tron shindig, postponed for two consecutive years due to Covid. Dorothy Blawna-Gale and her pooch Tronto plan to send audiences over the rainbow.

Robin Hood

Theatr Clwyd, Mold, 19 November-14 January
No matter the longbow: Clwyd’s rock’n’roll panto gives us a rebellious hero roaming the glen brandishing his trusty guitar. Written by Christian Patterson, it brings good news with rock, soul and pop songs.

winter tales

Live Theatre, Newcastle upon Tyne, 4-23 December
Why not let young audiences express themselves in their festive show? Local schoolchildren came up with the ideas behind this new story hour for over-fours written by Rory Mullarkey. Expect elves, polar bears and snowball throwing robots.

Charlie and the chocolate factory

Leeds Playhouse, 18 November-28 January
Leeds Playhouse’s traditional festive extravaganza is a guaranteed golden ticket. This year’s sweet treat, with a whopping 10-week run, is Roald Dahl’s classic previously performed in London and New York. There are new tunes and favorite songs from the film, taking you – all together now – “a world of pure imagination”.

Cinderella: The Midnight Princess

The Mac, Belfast, 30 November-8 January
This winter, you can sing along with Cinders in musical stages across the country, from Dundee to Manchester to Salisbury. Presented by Cahoots and the Mac, this ball in Belfast promises incredible illusions and a twist on the original fairy tale.


National Theatre, London, 26 November–14 January
The National’s 2021 Christmas show – a new version of Sleeping Beauty – was cursed by Covid: three weeks of performances were lost to illness and its official press night and NT Live broadcast were axed. He’s back with a new cast. Rufus Norris directs the fairy tale, with music by Jim Fortune and book by Tanya Ronder.

The Wild Adventure of Doctor Dolittle

Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff, 1-3 December
Welsh company Hijinx has an inclusive community theater troupe, Odyssey, whose festive spectacle is a musical menagerie featuring the ugly duckling, Nellie the elephant, Incy Wincy Spider and other colorful creatures.

The little Prince

Taunton Brewhouse, December 6-30
A circus ride on the enduring story of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, staged by the Metta Theater with a 24-person youth ensemble supporting the cast. Book and lyrics by P Burton-Morgan, with score by Candida Caldicot. There is a performance with Ukrainian subtitles on December 28.

Robin Hood

Oldham Coliseum, November 12-January 7
Oldham Coliseum enters the festive season reeling from the news that it will no longer receive funding from Arts Council England’s national portfolio. Like so many theaters, they will rely on a loyal local audience for their panto, which is written by Fine Time Fontayne and Chris Lawson. Designed by Celia Perkins (who won an award for last year’s production).

A Christmas Carol

Shakespeare North Playhouse, Prescot, 25 November-7 January
Dickens’ story of poverty and austerity brings a particular sting amid the cost of living crisis. Ellie Hurt directs a version by playwright Nick Lane and composer Simon Slater that aims to be “fast and furious” with added local references in this beautiful new theater.

Red Riding Hood

Everyman, Liverpool, 25 November-14 January
Suba Das, the new creative director of the Everyman and Playhouse theatres, stages his annual rock ‘n’ roll panto, written this year by Peter Rowe. There’s a top-notch technical team including choreographer Lucy Cullingford and designer Grace Smart digging into the story.

Related: Panto rookies get ready to party: “I’ll wave this wand with everything I’ve got!”

Sleeping Beauty

The Marlowe, Canterbury, 25 November-8 January
After her terrific performance in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella pantomime, Carrie Hope Fletcher goes nasty in her first real panto. She is the Wicked Witch opposite Strictly Champion Ore Oduba and Jennie Dale (the dastardly Captain Swashbuckle of CBeebies).

Tales of the Brothers Grimm

Sherman Theatre, Cardiff, 26 November-31 December
You could go see Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty or Rapunzel this winter – or find all three of them (plus a wolf and a Snow Queen to boot) in this fairy tale mashup from Hannah McPake. It follows the daughter of a suffragette who is transported by a storm to a magical land.

Mother hen

Hackney Empire, London, November 19-December 31
Panto dame extraordinaire Clive Rowe will have audiences wriggling with this wacky tale, staged to mark the 120th anniversary of not just the venue, but the 1902 version of the pantomime starring Dan Leno. Should leave you ding dong happily at the top.

treasure island

Lanternhouse, Cumbernauld, 2-24 December
This one’s a little more yo ho ho than ho ho ho: Ross MacKay’s swashbuckling play opens with young Robbie reading Robert Louis Stevenson’s book and getting carried away into his world of adventure . Co-presented by Visible Fictions.

Dolly Parton’s Smoky Mountain Christmas Carol

Southbank Centre, London, 8 December-8 January
Country legend Dolly Parton (recently inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame) wrote the music and lyrics for this twist on the Dickens classic, which transfers the story from Victorian London to 1930s Tennessee and casts Scrooge as a baron. mining.

Red Riding Hood

Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, 9-23 December
Writer Lewis Hetherington, composer Michael John McCarthy and director Dominic Hill present a Citz fairy tale for over-fives. As if a marauding wolf weren’t enough, its hero must save Christmas from prohibition. Pigs in blankets are advertised – but maybe not to eat.

Alice in Wonderland

Brixton House, London, 1-31 December
A Christmas Carroll from the sparkling Poltergeist theater company. Alice is an 11-year-old girl who argues with her mother in a London Underground station and jumps into a car headed for Nonsense. Expect a fast-paced, rap-fueled adventure at the new venue celebrating its first year in Lambeth.

Snow Queen

Lyric, Belfast, 25 November-31 December
A heartwarming winter story about fear, flowers, friendship and a big frost, based on Hans Christian Andersen’s story about Gerda and Kai. The new musical version of Paul Boyd blows on the main stage of the Lyric while his studio offers an intriguing cabaret, Pigeon & Plum’s Vaudeville Circus, for those over 13 years old.

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