Family Christmas shows in London

Our guide to the best family-friendly shows and children's theatre this Christmas

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Make Christmas more magical with a trip to one of London's many family-friendly Christmas shows. There's theatre big and bright enough to keep little ones enthralled and performances sweet and subtle enough to entertain the whole family. Find the one that all of your lot will love and book tickets so you don't miss out.

The Cat In The Hat

A revival production of Katie Mitchell's National Theatre adaptation of Dr Seuss's 'The Cat In The Hat' arrives at the Pleasance in time for Christmas. Based on the madcap evocative children's books, the show follows Sally and her brother who meet a mischievous cat. Ages 3-plus.

  1. Pleasance Theatre Carpenter's Mews, North Road, Islington, N7 9EF
  2. Thu Dec 18 - Sun Jan 4
More info

A Christmas Carol

The ancient Elizabethan Middle Temple Hall (where all the lawyers hang out) hosts this musical adaptation of Charles Dickens's classic. Following the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge and the ghosts who try to change his ways, 'A Christmas Carol' is a festive must. Here Antic Disposition makes their fourth visit to Middle Temple. 

  1. Middle Temple Hall
  2. Sat Dec 20 - Tue Dec 30
More info

A Christmas Carol

Charles Dickens's classic Christmas tale of old Scrooge, Tiny Tim and bah humbugs is given a slapstick twist by Let Them Call It Mischief in their festive show. Seven cast members recreate over 40 characters in a fast-paced retelling. Ages 8-plus.

  1. Pleasance Theatre Carpenter's Mews, North Road, Islington, N7 9EF
  2. Thu Dec 18 - Sun Jan 4
More info

A Christmas Carol

Charles Dickens's much-loved Christmas tale about the miser Scrooge and his visitation by some seasonal spirits is adapted into a puppet adventure. Marionettes, shadow puppets and special effects all feature in this festive show for ages 4-plus.

  1. Puppet Theatre Barge Little Venice, Blomfield Rd, W9 2PF
  2. Sat Dec 20 - Sun Jan 11
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Edward Scissorhands

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Critics choice

Matthew Bourne has had a fresh stab at his 2005 take on Tim Burton’s ultimate outsider’s tale for this year’s Sadler’s Wells Christmas offering. There is some new choreography, music and design, but the essentials remain unchanged: this is Bourne showing off his masterful storytelling skills for a great piece of entertainment.

  1. Sadler's Wells Rosebery Avenue, EC1R 4TN
  2. Thu Dec 18 - Sun Jan 11
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Eric and Little Ern

  • Rated as: 3/5

Ian Ashpitel and Jonty Stephens’s pleasant Morecambe and Wise tribute show was a hit at the Edinburgh Fringe this summer. Now it’s been promoted – probably a splash beyond its means – as it settles in to the West End for a seasonal stint.

  1. St James Theatre 12 Palace St, SW1E 5JA
  2. Thu Dec 18 - Sun Jan 11
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Grimm Tales

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Critics choice

The scariest thing about these six short adaptations of the Brothers Grimm’s more off-piste fairytales is the price tag: £45 is a hell of a lot to fork out for what is, essentially, a fairly stripped-back evening of high class but no frills storytelling.

  1. Bargehouse Oxo Tower Wharf, Bargehouse St, SE1 9PH
  2. Thu Dec 18 - Sun Feb 15
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The Hidden House

Take a magical tour through the enchanted woods and into this fairytale house which holds a dark secret. As you try to discover the truth behind Red Riding Hood's disappearance, the maze you explore will rustle and whisper and you'll be immersed in the sounds and smells of the forest. Could the Big Bad Wolf be right behind you? Hopefully a 15-minute journey is long enough to find out, though to be honest it sounds like only the steel-nerved could stick it out for longer. 

  1. Westfield Stratford City Great Eastern Road, E20
  2. Until Sun Jan 4
More info

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

  • Rated as: 4/5

‘Always winter, never Christmas.’ The line that runs through this season’s offering at the Rose may unintentionally resonate with patrons. Kingston’s theatre hasn’t fared too well over the festive period in recent years – up against all-star pantos in neighbouring areas, their shows have rarely come up to the mark and the locals have invariably voted with their feet.

  1. Rose Theatre Kingston 24-26 High St, Kingston, KT1 1HL
  2. Fri Dec 19 - Sun Jan 4
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One Snowy Night: Christmas Show at Discover

Snow is all around when Percy the Park Keeper finds a squirrel, a fox, a badger and a hedgehog on the doorstep of his hut, shivering with the cold. How will he get them all to sleep? An enchanting immersive production for 3- to 6-year-olds of Nick Butterworth's popular books. The performance lasts about an hour.

  1. Discover Children's Story Centre 383-387 Stratford High St, E15 4QZ
  2. Thu Dec 18 - Wed Dec 24
More info

Nigel and Louise's Basement Grotto

  • Rated as: 4/5

Screw trying to persuade some old man in a hot department store that you’ve been good this year. There’s a new Christmas grotto in town – and you actually get to travel through a magic portal to the North Pole. As part of the Shunt performance collective, Nigel Barrett and Louise Mari have made a host of intriguing, immersive, bizarre theatre shows. While ‘Nigel and Louise’s Basement Grotto’ is not a Shunt show, it features more than a little of the group’s glorious weirdness. It’s a colourful sensory adventure in which kids are encouraged to get involved. The magic portal is all bright fluorescent lights and eerie tinkling music, which we’re led through by a bunch of impossibly upbeat elves, who like cheese sandwiches and say ‘brilliant!’ a lot. We do a little dance, play snowmen statues (musical statues) and then a beautiful, ghostly white puppet Rudolf comes to help us find the napping Father Christmas. There’s a bit more preamble through some lovingly-designed rooms, but, really, this is all about the grotto. It’s essentially Barrett as Father Crimble sitting in a huge bed covered in pillows in a room with fluffy clouds hanging from the ceiling. He tells us a softly-spoken story filled with delight that had most of the kids on the bed entirely captivated. Presents are handed out – an obvious winner – and Santa switches into an amazing flying jumpsuit to bid us goodbye. Children of all ages are invited to cross through the portal. The day I saw it, there was a babe-in-arms

  1. Shoreditch Town Hall Old St, EC1V 9LT
  2. Until Wed Dec 24
More info

Peter Pan

London's most inclusive theatre the Chickenshed stages its Christmas show, this time its JM Barrie's tale of flying youngsters, pirates and Never Neverland. The piece returns to the theatre, following its run at the Albany in 2004 and children from the Great Ormond Street Hospital are involved in the piece. Ages 5-plus.

  1. Chickenshed Chase Side, Southgate, N14 4PE
  2. Thu Dec 18 - Sat Jan 10
More info

The Possible Impossible House

Subversive experimental theatre company Forced Entertainment team up with visual artist Vlatka Horvat on its first show for young people. 'The Possible Impossible House' has constantly shifting rooms containing complaining beds, singing plumbing and talking doors. The company create the house through live sound and performance. Ages 7+.  

  1. Barbican Theatre Barbican Centre, EC2Y 8DS
  2. Thu Dec 18 - Sun Dec 28
More info

The Railway Children

It was a big smash hit when Mike Kenney adapted E Nesbit’s much-loved children’s book ‘The Railway Children’ and Damian Cruden staged it actually on a platform at Waterloo in 2011. Now it returns, but not to Waterloo. Instead it’s arriving at a specially built 1,000 seater theatre built behind King’s Cross station. Railway tracks and platforms will be created specially for the production, which tells of a group of children who move from London to a cottage in the country with their mother after their father is mysteriously taken away.

  1. King's Cross Theatre King's Cross, N1C
  2. Thu Dec 18 - Sun Sep 6
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Singin' In The Rain

It's one of the most feel-good movies of all time so this revival of the musical version should be a good fuzzy Christmas treat. John Plews directs the piece, which has classics such as 'Good Morning' and 'Make 'Em Laugh'.

  1. Upstairs at the Gatehouse Hampstead Lane, Highgate Village, N6 4BD
  2. Thu Dec 18 - Sun Jan 25
More info

Slava's Snowshow

  • Rated as: 4/5

Some people are wary of Christmas for good reason. Others – and this camp could really do us all a favour by giving themselves a stern talking to – bemoan things like 'the fuss' and 'those pesky pine needles that fall off the tree'. Well, even these embattled souls – as well as those more traditionally ga-ga for festive frippery – would find it difficult to withstand the full-bore Beckettian lunacy of 'Slava's Snow Show'.

  1. Royal Festival Hall Belvedere Rd, South Bank, SE1 8XX
  2. Thu Dec 18 - Mon Jan 5
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The Snowman

  • Rated as: 3/5

Birmingham Repertory Theatre's stage show for all the family based on Raymond Briggs's modern classic. A delight for kids, using dance, music and storytelling to summon up the feeling of walking in the air, with choreography by Robert North and featuring a full live orchestra.

  1. Peacock Theatre Portugal St, WC2A 2HT
  2. Fri Dec 19 - Sun Jan 4
More info

The Snow Queen

A new version of Hans Christian Anderson's classic fairy tale about a scary snow queen who kidnaps a boy called Kai. His best friend Gerda heads out to try to rescue him. The show has new songs for the whole family and the piece is penned by comedy writer Georgia Pritchett who has written for TV shows including 'Miranda', 'The Thick of It' and 'Have I Got News For You?' so this should have more than a smidgen of laughter about it.

  1. Nuffield Theatre University Road, SO17 1TR
  2. Thu Dec 18 - Sun Jan 4
More info

Timber!

  • Rated as: 4/5

Forget leotards and lithe bodies; they’re for sissies. There’s a new type of circus in town and it’s all about the white vests and bushy beards.

  1. Queen Elizabeth Hall South Bank, SE1 8XX
  2. Sun Dec 21 - Wed Dec 31
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Treasure Island

  • Rated as: 4/5

Those salty buccaneers Polly Findlay and Bryony Lavery have taken Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic pirate story by force, and given it quite the refit. The imaginative writer/director team has turned Stevenson’s classic boy’s-own adventure story into a big mad scary gothic feminist coming-of-age panto, anchored by stupendous special effects – and a plucky hero who’s actually a heroine.

  1. National Theatre, Olivier South Bank, SE1 9PX
  2. Thu Dec 18 - Wed Apr 8
More info

White Christmas

  • Rated as: 4/5

Resistance is futile. This stage adaptation of the 1954 movie musical – touring since 2006, and newly installed at the Dominion – is as indulgent and seductive as a third helping of Christmas pudding.

  1. Dominion Theatre 268-269 Tottenham Court Road, W1T 7AQ
  2. Thu Dec 18 - Sat Jan 3
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