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Alternative Christmas shows in London

Festive culture without the clichés: take your pick of the capital's best alternative Christmas theatre

'Wonder.land'

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.

As You Like It

The great Rosalie Craig - who lead the National's 'The Light Princess and the Donmar's recent 'City of Angels' - stars as Rosalind in Polly Findlay's production of Shakespeare's comedy 'As You Like It'. It's a fairly big deal, what with it being the first time there's been a production of the play in over 30 years, plus Findlay is a endlessly safe pair of hands. The play itself tells of Rosalind runs off to the Forest of Arden and disguises herself as a boy and gets caught up in that tricky thing called love. Dates, times and prices TBC.  

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National Theatre, South Bank Monday October 26 2015 - Wednesday January 27 2016

Barbarians

Barrie Keeffe's 1970s Lewisham-set 'Barbarians' is directed by Liz Stevenson, winner of the prestigious JMK directing award. The play follows three young men who leave school and head for a life of petty crime on the streets of south London while they struggle amid high unemployment and youthful frustration.

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Young Vic, Southwark Friday November 27 2015 - Saturday December 19 2015

Bull

Critics' choice

This review is of the show's January 2015 run. 'Bull' returns to the Young Vic in December 2015. Two audience members fainted during the press night performance of ‘Bull’, and I can’t say I blame them: anybody thinking the 55-minute running time of Mike Bartlett’s shocking play means an easy ride is sorely mistaken.

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Young Vic, Southwark Friday December 11 2015 - Saturday January 9 2016

Derren Brown: Miracle

That man who has the power of mind over, well, maybe everything, returns with a new one-man show 'Miracle'. TV psychological magician star Derren Brown impressed with his last piece 'Infamous' and this promises to be more philosophical and gets audiences to look at ways of making themselves happier. Could this be life coach territory? Brown teams up with his usual collaborator Andy Nyman. Ages 12-plus.

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Palace Theatre, Soho Wednesday November 11 2015 - Saturday January 16 2016

The Distance

Critics' choice

'The Distance' returns to the Orange Tree Theatre in November 2015. This review is of the show's 2014 run. Bea’s left her family. For good. In Melbourne. She didn’t fit in Down Under, she didn’t fully click with her husband and she wasn’t cut out for motherhood. So, what now? Back in Blighty, her two oldest friends have rallied. Bossy-boots Kate has booked Bea a plane ticket home.

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Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond Thursday November 26 2015 - Saturday December 19 2015

Forget Me Not

This co-production between the Bush Theatre and new writing festival HighTide is about the 3000 British children who were told they were orphans and sent off to Australia with the promise of a better life. The reality of what they faced when they arrived, however, was less than idyllic. A remarkable subject, turned into a play by Tom Holloway, that seems to have been buried by history. Not your typical Christmas fodder, but on over the festive period nonetheless. Christmas schedule TBC

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Bush Theatre, Shepherd's Bush Tuesday December 8 2015 - Saturday January 16 2016

Funny Girl

Following her string of excellent TV appearances in the likes of 'Cilla' and 'The C World', Sheridan Smith returns to the stage, and to musicals with this production of the 1966 show 'Funny Girl'. Smith's lungs of steel were proved when she starred in the likes of 'Legally Blonde' and 'Little Shop of Horrors' and her high profile turn in 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' in 2013 with David Walliams was very well received. Smith will star as Fanny Brice in the first stage performance of Bob Merrill, Jule Styne and Isobel Lennart's 'Funny Girl' since its premiere. The show catapulted Barbara Streisand to fame and is directed at the Menier Chocolate Factory by Michael Mayer. Brice was a real-life figure who became one of America's best-loved comedians and actresses in the 30s and 40s. Smith will be singing songs like 'People', 'You Are Woman, I Am Man' and 'Don't Rain on My Parade'.

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Menier Chocolate Factory, Southwark Friday November 20 2015 - Saturday March 5 2016

Here We Go

'Here We Go' is a short new play from excellent British playwright Caryl Churchill about death. Directed by Dominic Cook, it's one of several Churchill plays being performed this year - 'Light Shining in Buckinghamshire' was revived on the NT's Lyttelton stage in June - and shows just how relevant a voice she still is. It sounds a little humorously oblique, mentioning a funeral party for a man with an adventurous past and a ginger cat who needs a home.

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National Theatre, South Bank Wednesday November 25 2015 - Saturday December 19 2015

Henry IV Part I

Critics' choice

'Henry IV' returns to the Barbican as part of the 'King and Country' cycle alongside 'Richard II' and 'Henry V' in November. Dates and times TBC. With a magnificent shock of bouncy grey hair, Antony Sher slowly waddles his substantially padded frame around the RSC’s productions of ‘Henry IV’ parts one and two. He’s a formidable Sir John Falstaff: his pronunciation posh and slightly slurred, his manner bawdy but full of humour, his bright red face always laughing.

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Barbican Theatre, Barbican Saturday December 12 2015 - Saturday January 23 2016

Henry IV Part II

Critics' choice

'Henry IV' returns to the Barbican as part of the 'King and Country' cycle alongside 'Richard II' and 'Henry V' in November. Dates and times TBC. With a magnificent shock of bouncy grey hair, Antony Sher slowly waddles his substantially padded frame around the RSC’s productions of ‘Henry IV’ parts one and two. He’s a formidable Sir John Falstaff: his pronunciation posh and slightly slurred, his manner bawdy but full of humour, his bright red face always laughing.It’s an excellent rendition of Shakespeare’s most fun character.

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Barbican Centre, Barbican Monday December 14 2015 - Saturday January 23 2016

Henry V

The RSC's cycle of history plays - with the overall title 'King and Country' - is completed by this new production of Shakespeare's 'Henry V'. Following 'Henry IV' P1 & 2, this play brings the conclusion of the kings of war, timed for the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt. The piece follows Hal as king, who must take hold of the country and leave his wayward drinking days behind him. He prepares for war following an insult from the French Dauphin. Alex Hassell reprises his performance as Prince Hal in Henry IV, but also takes on the role of King Henry in this production. Each of the shows, 'Richard II', 'Henry IV' P1&2 all run in rep from December 10.

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Barbican Centre, Barbican Saturday November 7 2015 - Sunday January 24 2016

La Soirée

'La Soiree' returns to London over Christmas 2015. This review is of the show's run in 2014. From its debut at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2004, to the celebration of its tenth birthday at the South Bank today, circus-burlesque show ‘La Soireé’ has ooh-la-la’d around the world.

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Spiegeltent at the South Bank, South Bank Tuesday October 27 2015 - Sunday January 17 2016

Les Liaisons Dangereuses

A particularly juicy revival of Christopher Hampton's saucy sexually charged 'Les Liaisons Dangereuses' based on Choderlos de Laclos' novel about 18th century France where Marquise de Merteuil and Vicomte de Valmont  play games of seduction and revenge. His play was made into a successful film in 1988 starring Glen Close and John Malkovich and this revival boasts a similarly exciting cast. Dominic West stars as Vicomte de Valmont and Janet McTeer is Marquise de Merteuil, while Michelle Dockery is Madame de Tourvel. Donmar artistic director Josie Rourke continues the theatre's trend of shunning Christmas shows and directs the show over the festive period herself.

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Donmar Warehouse, Covent Garden Friday December 11 2015 - Saturday February 13 2016

Linda

Great director Michael Longhurst seems to be able to do not much wrong. He's got a ridiculous number of shows on, or just finished in London at the moment - including 'A Number' at the Young Vic and 'Bad Jews' at the Arts Theatre. His new project is Penelope Skinner's play 'Linda' about successful woman Linda Wilde who refuses to be ignored just because she's ageing. Skinner's previous work included 'The Village Bike' for the Royal Court in 2011.

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Royal Court Theatre, Belgravia Wednesday November 25 2015 - Saturday January 9 2016

Macbeth

Continuing her foray into theatre infused with movement following 'Medea' at the National Theatre, Carrie Cracknell directs the Bard's tragedy with Lucy Guerin. This will be a staging that features five dancers and six actors and an intriguing design from Lizzie Clachan. It's a co-production with the Birmingham Rep and with Cracknell's touch will likely be a thrilling version. John Heffernan stars as Macbeth.

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Young Vic, Southwark Thursday November 26 2015 - Saturday January 16 2016

Table of Delights

Food and theatre aren't obvious bedfellows but in this collaboration between Bristol chef Matt Williamson and Guardian food writer Claire Thompson and Theatre Damfino they are the best of friends. 'Table of Delights' is an 'interactive theatrical tasting' where, over five acts, people are told stories about the journey of food from beetroots to dairy and served up a meal that's prepared in front of their eyes. What's not to like about this show? NB: some of the shows are family and kids shows, while others are adult shows.

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Print Room, Kensington Tuesday November 24 2015 - Saturday December 12 2015

wonder.land

Following his foray into opera with 'Dr Dee' at the Manchester International Festival, Damon Albarn, he of 90s indie band Blur, returns to the same festival to collaborate again with Rufus Norris on a musical endeavour. 'wonder.land' is a musical inspired by Lewis Carroll's playful nonsense novel 'Alice in Wonderland'.

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National Theatre, South Bank Monday November 23 2015 - Sunday January 31 2016

You For Me For You

Though it may have a title that reminds a little of the Chuckle brothers, Mia Chung's play is actually about North Korean sisters Minhee and Junhee who are separated at their country's border as they attempt to flee. 'You For Me For You' sees its UK premiere with Richard Twyman directing. Cast TBC.

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Royal Court Theatre, Belgravia Thursday December 3 2015 - Saturday January 9 2016

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Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho
Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho

I'm sure you only missed me off to give the other shows a chance. Yes, that's right, I'm back and more fabulous than ever! In a brand new drag musical comedy satirical extravaganza. Ever wondered what might have happened if I, Margaret Thatcher, had got lost in Soho on the eve of the vote for section 28, reversed all my views, and become an overnight cabaret sensation? Then wonder no more! Written and directed by award winning playwright Jon Brittain and co-written by and starring Matt Tedford as the lady herself, Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho is a hilarious tongue in cheek Christmas show that's running at Theatre503 from 10th December - 4th January. There'll be music, laughter and free school milk for all! Where there are discos, may we bring harmony! Trailer here... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Uq9PPPFkrI Tickets here... http://theatre503.com/whats-on/margaret-thatcher-queen-of-soho/