Children's theatre in London

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

© Billy Elliot
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 all the family

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 October 4 2015

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

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 19 2015
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Theatre for children (5+)

Peter Pan

Less your regular panto and more Christmas show affair, Polka Theatre offer up an adaptation of JM Barrie's classic tale by artistic director Peter Glanville. Catch singing, flying and dancing as they bring the tale of lost boys and girls, fairies and pirates to life. Ages 6-plus.

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Polka Theatre Saturday January 31 2015 - Saturday February 14 2015

Red Riding Hood and the Wolf Who Tried to Eat Her

The marionettes in Deborah Jones's retelling are expressive and precise in their movements, thanks to the skill of their creators and manipulators Juliet and Gren Middleton, and the three main characters possess personalities that extend beyond their established roles. A witty, if wordy, production at an unusual floating theatre. Age 4+.

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Puppet Theatre Barge Saturday January 31 2015 - Sunday March 15 2015

Jabberwocky

Critics' choice

Do you know your borogoves from your slithy toves? Not to worry if you don’t. There’s a copy of Lewis Carroll’s poem ‘Jabberwocky’ in the programme for this stage adaptation, and the performance opens with a bedtime reading of it to the boy marionette who’s about to set off on his quest-within-a-dream. 

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Little Angel Theatre Until Sunday February 1 2015

Britain's Best Recruiting Sergeant

Children's theatre the Unicorn commemorate the centenary of World War I and the 150th anniversary of music hall entertainer Vesta Tilley's birth with this new play. 'Britain's Best Recruiting Sergeant' follows Tilley as she grows up to become a male impersonator, and aids the war effort by helping to recruit soldiers to fight for their king. Lee Lydford directs Joy Wilkinson's play. Ages 8-plus.

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Unicorn Theatre Friday February 13 2015 - Sunday March 15 2015
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Theatre for young children (0-4)

Cindermouse

Critics' choice

Before there’s any action on the stage, the young audience are asked to get out of their seats and search for the Little Angel cat – an ‘unwelcome’ interloper in this Cinderella-inspired puppet production set in Mousetown. It’s a canny piece of staging that gets the kids invested from the get-go, and their engagement in the show doesn’t wane.

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Little Angel Theatre Friday January 30 2015 - Sunday February 1 2015

Curious

In this play for the very young, tots are invited to step into a magical interactive environment where kitchen meets garden. Ages 0-3.

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Polka Theatre Friday February 13 2015 - Saturday February 14 2015

The Velveteen Rabbit

Margery Williams's classic American story is givena contemporary adaptation by the Unicorn's artistic director Purni Morello. The play tells of a shy rabbit who wants to be loved and wants to become real. Ages 4+.

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Unicorn Theatre Saturday March 28 2015 - Sunday April 26 2015

Grandad, Me... and Teddy Too

Sarah Argent's new show for kids has music from Greg Hall and is all about children and their grandparents. In 'Grandad, Me... and Teddy Too' Mia's granddad is coming to visit and she's getting more and more excited. Ages 2-5.

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Polka Theatre Until Sunday February 8 2015
See more of the best London shows for little ones

Comments

5 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