Children's theatre in London

Keep the kids quiet with a bit of culture at one of London's family-friendly shows

'Grandad Me and Teddy Too'
Even the smallest members of the family enjoy the odd stage show. Here are the Time Out theatre team's recommendations for which performances will suit the very little ones, the nearly big ones, and the grown ups.

Theatre for young children (0-4)

The Gruffalo

This summer brings with it a return for the huge hairy monster that is the Gruffalo, the horned beast from Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler's kids books. Tall Stories's loved production pitches up in the West End over the holidays. Follow mouse as he heads through the forest outwitting foxes, owls, snakes and more until he bumps into the Gruffalo. Ages 3-plus.

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Lyric Theatre Wednesday July 1 2015 - Sunday September 6 2015

The Paper Dolls

A new Polka/Little Angel production in time for Easter. This is a stage adaptation of Julia Donaldson's 'The Paper Dolls' about a little girl who cuts out a string of paper dolls and takes them on an adventure. London's premiere puppet theatre should probably bring it beautifully to life. Ages 3-7.

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Little Angel Theatre Until Sunday June 28 2015

Ben and Holly's Little Kingdom

The Bafta-winning animation about a fairy princess in training and her best friend, Ben the Elf, is brought to the stage by the same people who adapted 'Peppa Pig'. Ladybird Gaston's cave gets a makeover and there's a surprise party for King Thistle, with songs and games along the way. Ages 2+.

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Orchard Theatre Saturday May 30 2015 - Wednesday August 12 2015
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Theatre for children (5+)

Henry the Fifth

'Henry The Fifth' returns to the Unicorn in May 2015. This review is of the show's 2013 run. ‘Henry V’ is probably one of the hardest Shakespeare plays to adapt for children. It’s wordy and its main themes are about courage and leadership: characteristics a little irrelevant to the pre-teens. So Belgian playwright Ignace Cornelissen – who produced an excellent kids’ version of ‘The Winter’s Tale’ last year – has taken the play apart for the Unicorn Theatre and created something quite different with its fragments.

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Unicorn Theatre Until Sunday May 31 2015

Adventures in Wonderland

A show for kids to accompany the 'Alice's Adventures Underground' immersive show for adults in the Vaults at Waterloo. 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is multi-sensory fun for children aged 5 and up. Theatre company Les Enfants Terribles create the entire weird world of Alice over several rooms underground. Kids have to make choices which determines the way their individual show goes, but the audience come together at the end for a big tea party and play croquet with the Queen of Hearts.

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The Vaults Until Sunday May 31 2015

Against Captain’s Orders: A Journey into the Uncharted

Critics' choice

Avast! Those of you still trying to work out what the bejesus was going on in Punchdrunk’s cryptic odyssey ‘The Drowned Man’ will be relieved to discover that the latest show from the immersive theatre gurus ventures into calmer waters.There’s a catch, though: ‘Against Captain’s Orders’ is in fact the work of Punchdrunk Enrichment, the company’s learning-centric spin-off, and is running not in a hip abandoned warehouse but the basement of the Greenwich Maritime Museum.

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National Maritime Museum Until Monday August 31 2015

The Adventure

Clowns tend to get a bad rap these days, but it’s hard to express quite how grateful I was for the presence of shambolic children’s entertainer Mr Wren in this interactive kids’ adventure from theatre company Bad Physics. With his hacking cough, horrendous interpersonal skills, rubbish sock puppets and complete ineptitude with balloon animals, Nathaniel Tapley’s Wren is a total disaster, failing miserably in his attempt to keep the young audience (ages seven to 13) entertained by regaling them with the story of Noah’s ark in a cramped little locker room backstage at the Lyric.

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Lyric Hammersmith Until Saturday June 6 2015
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Theatre for all the family

Billy Elliot the Musical

Critics' choice

Current cast features Harris Beattie, Harrison Dowzel, Redmand Rance and Kaine Ward as Billy. Six years after it first stamped, swore, and pirouetted into audiences' hearts, 'Billy Elliot the Musical' continues to mark itself out as one of the best nights in town. Both as tough as a miner's fist after a Friday night booze-up and as soaringly sensitive as one of Tchaikovsky's swans, it's a gritty story of hope that works its magic by defying sentimentality and slaying stereotypes.

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Victoria Palace Theatre Until Saturday December 17 2016

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Critics' choice

‘Skyfall’ director Sam Mendes’s huge new Warner Brothers musical confirms it: the hottest property in the West End right now is a grouchy, dead half-Norwegian, who loathed show-offs and spent most of his working life hiding out in a shed at the bottom of his garden. Roald Dahl probably wouldn’t have liked the whiz-popping rave that Mendes has created from his addictive kids’ book ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ – because he felt it was Charlie’s story, and any adaptation inevitably becomes the Willy Wonka show.

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Theatre Royal Drury Lane Until Saturday June 4 2016

The Lion King

The posters have been plastered around the London Underground for years – long enough for this show to become the most successful musical of all time – but nothing prepares you for the sheer impact of 'The Lion King's opening sequence. With the surge of 'Circle Of Life' reverberating through your chest, Julie Taymor's animal creations march on, species by species. Gazelles spring, birds swoop and an elephant and her child lumber through the stalls. It's a cacophonous cavalcade that genuinely stops you breathing.

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Lyceum Theatre Until Sunday January 3 2016

Matilda the Musical

Critics' choice

'My mummy says I'm a miracle,' lisps a pampered mini-me at a purgatorial kiddies' birthday party at the outset of this delicious, treacly-dark family show. The obnoxious ma and pa of its titular, gifted, pint-sized heroine are not, of course, quite so doting. But 'Matilda' must be making its creators, playwright Dennis Kelly and comedian-songsmith Tim Minchin, a very pair of proud parents.

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Cambridge Theatre Until Sunday December 20 2015
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Comments

6 comments
Lucy Limon
Lucy Limon

Which play does that top photo show, the one with the train steaming down the middle of the theatre?? That looks amazing. Thanks

Lucy Limon
Lucy Limon

Which play does that top photo show, the one with the train steaming down the middle of the theatre?? That looks amazing. Thanks

Andrzej
Andrzej

Re: Elaine: the smaller theatres tend to be represented more by the 'for children' and 'for young children' tabs at the top of the screen - if you click on them you'll see shows at the Little Angel et al, it's just that the genuinely 'family friendly' shows (ie anyone of any age could see them) tend to gravitate towards the West End while the specialist children's theatre tend to put on shows that are actively aimed at children only. Might rethink this one if it's not clear!

elaine turner
elaine turner

this sight is too west end based- what is needed is some information regarding small theatres that we can take our kids to without getting a new mortgage