Family Christmas shows in London
Our guide to the best family-friendly shows and children's theatre this Christmas
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Matthew Bourne's classic dance adaptation of Tim Burton's gothic film starring Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder 'Edward Scissorhands' returns to Sadler's Wells this Christmas. It tells of the poor creature who has hands from scissors who struggles for acceptance in a small town. Bourne has taken a fresh look at the show for its first major revival since its premiere production in 2005. Danny Elfman's music and Terry Davies's sets remain, as will, presumably, Bourne's exciting choreography.
- 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.
- Rated as: 4/5
A gorgeous production that crackles and glows like an autumn bonfire, this immersive journey through Philip Pullman’s versions of classic fairytales is a haven of dark enchantment in the cellars of Shoreditch Town Hall. Director Philip Wilson conjures up a firecracker of a production, as punchy and lucid as Pullman’s adaptations, where magic is made all the more magical because it seems so sensible and self-evident.
Battles, talking lions, royal children and faraway lands: what's not to like about CS Lewis's classic Narnia tales? Here the second in the series, and probably the most famous, is adapted by Theresa Heskins for this production at the Rose Theatre over Christmas. An army of young actors make up the cast alongside professional actors, all directed by Ciaran McConville.
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.
Mayhem Musical Theatre company perform JM Barrie's classic flying tale about Wendy and her brothers who meet the remarkable boy who will never grow up.
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.
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+.
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.
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'.
- 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'.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
The National Theatre's annual family friendly Christmas epic this year isn't exactly unheard of. Robert Louis Stevenson's classic 'Treasure Island' is one of the most dramatised novels ever. Thankfully, the big bods at the National have commissioned Bryony Lavery to adapt the piece. Lavery is a versatile, surprising writer and regular collaborator with experimental physical theatre company Frantic Assembly, so chances are this will be a 'Treasure Island' unlike any you've seen before.
Looking for a genuine Christmas experience? This full scale enactment of the birth of Jesus should do the trick. A specially composed score will accompany this performance, which stars a cast of more than 50, real donkeys and a flock of sheep. The action begins in the piazza outside BBC Broadcasting House where it can be watched for free, but part two will take place inside All Souls Church so you'll need to book tickets in advance to find out how it ends. The performance will also take place on The Wintershall Estate in Surrey on Dec 18, 19, 20 and 21.
- 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.
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After a classier alternative to TV time? Get the kids hooked on culture with a visit to one of these great family-friendly shows
See our guide to children's theatre in London