Alternative Christmas shows in London
Festive culture without the clichés: take your pick of the capital's best alternative Christmas theatre
Going to the theatre this winter doesn't have to mean nutcrackers and camp men dressed as Marie Antoinette. There are plenty of alternative shows that will help to quell the Christmas overload. This page will get updated as more shows are announced, but you can see all shows in December here.
We can't wait to see the list of song titles. The long-fabled musical version of Bret Easton Ellis's cult yuppie thriller about a Wall Street banker turned sadistic serial killer finally gets its world premiere in London (it was initially intended for Broadway) courtesy of Rupert Goold's suitably bold and inventive Headlong. With music and lyrics by Duncan Sheik (who scored 'Spring Awakening') and a book by 'Glee' writer and 'Spider-Man' rescuer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, it follows the brilliant 2000 movie version starring Christian Bale, with set designer Es Devlin tasked with evoking Patrick Bateman's '80s Manhattan world of soulessly exclusive hang-outs.
Dame Edna Everage, the Honorable Sir Les Patterson, Sandy Stone… it's time to bid them all farewell, as Barry Humphries takes his final bow at the legendary London Palladium. Humphries's characters have become iconic creations, especially Dame Edna, who's won Tony Awards, played the Royal Albert Hall and performed for the royal family. Expect this to be a glitzy, showbiz goodbye, full of smiling dancers, spectacular sets, and the word 'possum' used dozens of times.
Boris and Sergey – a couple of leathery, foot-high filthy charmers – are the stars of this semi-improvised grown-up bunraku puppet show. The puppeteers' visibility does nothing to undermine the characters' seedy allure, ranging from amusing double-act rapport to cod-blockbuster set-pieces. Expect a festive twist or two.
In a refreshingly unfestive move, Menier Chocolate Factory's Christmas show this year is Leonard Bernstein and Hugh Wheeler's musical adaptation of Voltaire's 1759 satire. The story follows Candide on a journey of discovery as he tries to reconcile the philosophy he has been taught - that everything which happens, happens for the best - with the events of his life. Fra Fee - who played Courfeyrac in the film of 'Les Miserables' takes the lead role, with Scarlett Strallen as Cunegonde. Mathew White, who had recent success with the Olivier-winning hit 'Top Hat', directs and dancer Adam Cooper choreographs.
Comedy trio Fascinating Aida arrive at the Southbank's Winter Festival with a new show for the Christmas season. Dillie Keane, Adele Anderson and Liza Pulman will perform a series of new songs and some old and outrageous ones with the company's usually unfailing funny panache.
Some naysayers have suggested that current Donmar boss Josie Rourke doesn't have the big name pull of her predecessors, but this is quite the rebuttal: she's lured Tom Hiddleston away from the silver screen to star in the title role of Shakespeare's tragedy about the eponymous Roman statesman who was rejected by his country after saving the capital. And if that's not enough, he stars opposite Mark Gatiss as Menenius – he returns to the Donmar after starring in the first play of the Rourke regime, 'The Recruiting Officer'. Rourke herself directs. Public booking opens June 25.
The Hampstead Theatre Downstairs's programme, which has the aim of championing new writing has this sharp comedy from Ali Taylor running over Christmas. Focusing on a charity called Disasters Relief, the play looks at the dilemmas faced when working for a modern charity. The morning after the charity's Christmas party sees cataclysmic hangovers and breaking news in the form of a massive earthquake in Pakistan.
The Old Vic brings Ivan Turgenev's 1848 madly funny Russian family drama to the West End for the first time in Mike Poulton's adaptation - first seen on Broadway in 2002. 'Game of Thrones' actor Iain Glen and Richard McCabe - who won an Olivier for his portrayal of Harold Wilson in 'The Audience' - make up the cast. Ex-Print Room artistic director Lucy Bailey takes the reins of this satire of nineteenth century Russian aristocracy about two newlyweds who, after arriving at their country house, are told a shocking revelation by their mischievous neighbour.
This hedonistic Argentinian theatrical extravaganza is back for a third time at the Roundhouse after its most recent run last year with a whopping run of 100 performances. 'Fuerzabruta' (it means 'brute force') is an eye-popping barrage of sights, sounds and stunts that includes scenes of a man charging through a series of moving walls and a giant fishtank stuffed with performers that descends upon the audience. Artistic director Diqui James and musical director Gaby Kerpel also created 'De La Guarda'.
Michael Grandage's directorial season at the Noël Coward ends with the casting of his most famous protégé, Jude Law, in the title role of Shakespeare's great patriotic romp. Charismatic though he is, the slight, caddish Law doesn't seem obvious casting as the young king, especially as he's well over a decade older than Henry was during the events depicted in the play. But Grandage and his old venue the Donmar Warehouse have always brought out the best in the A-lister, and with Grandage such a fine interpreter of Shakespeare, there's every reason to expect great things.
- Critics choice
Tom Wells's acclaimed, bittersweet romcom about gay footballers gave touring company Paines Plough a big hit earlier this year. As 2013 draws to a close, London will be able to get a proper run too, as 'Jumpers for Goalposts' heads to The Bush, where Wells's 'The Kitchen Sink' was a big hit back in 2011.
Tinder Theatre company manage to make a comedy out of the rather tragic events that took place during Captain Scott's race to get to the South Pole. Telling the story of one of Britain's most famous adventurers, 'The Last March' merges physical theatre, storytelling and uses lots of tea.
Hans Christian Andersen's classic fairytale comes complete with a traditional Danish folk score in this new staging starring the actor-musicians of graduate company Blind Tiger.
- Critics choice
National Theatre of Scotland's adaptation of the Swedish teen-vampire horror arrives at the Royal Court for a limited run before it transfers to the West End. The spooky fairy tale is less about the vampiric blood and gore than about a strange, enduring friendship in an unlikely place. The team behind the hit 'Black Watch' John Tiffany and Steven Hoggett bring this one to the stage. For adults and fearless teens ages 13-plus.
In a spunky reworking of this Christmas classic, it's Christmas eve and someone is breaking into Gary's warehouse on the edge of town dressed as an elf. Anthony Neilson and Soho's artistic director Steve Marmion team up to stage Soho's seasonal show complete with songs from Tom Mills. Rebecca Atkinson from 'Shameless' stars alongside Navin Chowdhry, Craig Gazey and Craig Kelly. Ages 15+.
Prickly Welsh film star Rhys Ifans plays Danny in this monologue from Tim Price about the Occupy Movement, staged over Christmas in the National's funky pop Shed venue. A sideways look at a remarkable period in London's protest history, the piece follows what happens when Danny's home - the steps of St Paul's Cathedral - is taken over one day by protesters. Polly Findlay directs. Time, dates and prices TBC.
- Critics choice
Immersive theatre company Look Left Look Right - who won a Fringe first for 'You Once Said Yes' in 2011 - take over Covent Garden over four weeks for this odd Christmas adventure. An audience member is sent off every seven minute intervals to help Elf save Christmas in an hour long journey around the area's bars, restaurants, shops and the transport museum. Ticket price includes a return ticket to the London Transport Museum within a month.
The sordid world of a convent school in the Fifties is the setting for this comedy from Mary J O'Malley, directed by 'Harry Enfield' actress Kathy Burke, who returns to the Trike after 'The Quare Fellow' in 2004. The nuns at Our Lady of the Fatima are trying to keep hold on their young protegees, as they preach the usual line of chastity, but the swinging Sixties are fast approaching.
- Critics choice
Everyone's favourite Scotsman, David Tennant, brings his considerable skills to bear on the title role in this major new production of Shakespeare's play, directed by RSC boss Gregory Doran. Oliver Ford Davies, who also starred alongside Tennant in his wildly successful 2008 RSC turn as Hamlet, is also in the cast. But the play is significant not only for its casting, but because it marks the first time that the RSC has returned to the Barbican since former artistic director Adrian Noble chose to base the company exclusively in Stratford-upon-Avon.
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Discover all the festive activities to be enjoyed in London this Christmas, including markets, Christmas lights, pantomimes and carols.