Top 10 children's theatre shows this half-term

Our critics' guide to the best shows to take this kids to this school holiday

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Not sure what to do with the kids this half-term? Never fear, as we round up all the best children's theatre in London this holiday, from puppet shows for the very young to exciting family dramas.

  1. View the top ten as a countdown
  2. View the top ten as a list
  • Red Riding Hood

    Mike Kenny's adaptation of that gothic, enduring fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm returns to West London's children's theatre Polka after a 2012 run. Despite the story's inherent darkness this production is undoubtedly for kids, with Kenny's Olivier-winning skills being paired with fun songs by Julian Butler. Here, a little girl stays at her grandma's and her little brother wants to tag along but there's too much excitement for them to sleep. Ages 4-7.

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  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

    Another Roald Dahl adaptation sailed into the West End last year in the form of Sam Mendes's huge new Warner Brothers musical 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory'. It's a whiz-popping rave for the senses, with delicate, funny and kooky performances including from the central man Douglas Hodge as Willy Wonker. This will likely sell out very quickly over half-term, so book up as early as possible.

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  • Not Now, Bernard

    There's a monster in the garden, but Bernard's parents are just to busy to notice. Dave McKee's thirty-year-old picture-book gets a staging at the Unicorn theatre directed by Ellen McDougall. Ages 2+.

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  • Sleeping Beauty in the Wood

    London's children's theatre scene just wouldn't be the same without the Little Angel, the small but brilliant puppet theatre in north London. This is a revival of the theatre's classic adaptation of the story by Brothers Grimm, directed by Norwich Puppet Theatre Artistic Director Joy Haynes. Briar Rose is the fair beauty of the tale who has to deal with the spell cast by a disgruntled fairy a long time ago. Expect, princesses and magic. Ages 3+.

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  • Portofino Ballad

    This short show from the Barbican promises to be a charming, poignant exploration of family ties with puppetry and magical storytelling. Peter Rinderknecht's show, which features intriguing use of a double bass is on only during half term so now is the chance to catch it. The piece is about a bored little boy who dreams of a sea port called Portofino, but his dad wants him to take over the family business. Ages 7+.

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  • That Catherine Bennett Show

    Performer Bryony Kimmings wowed at Edinburgh and London with her recent show 'Credible Likeable Superstar Role Model' which looked at what happened when Kimmings and her nine year old niece Taylor created Catherine Bennett, a pop star that was a positive role model to young people and an alternative to the sexualised singers that dominate the music industry. Here, they build on the five star piece with 'That Catherine Bennett Show', a fun new show for kids that calls in at the Southbank Centre this half-term. Ages 6+.

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  • War Horse

    It's not just in London that 'War Horse' has been wowing audiences: the rest of the UK, Broadway and the world have also been charmed after tours of the National Theatre's hit production went global. London's where it started though, and this beautiful puppet production of Michael Morpurgo's WWI children's novel is not for the very young ones, but is a must for the majority of the family. Handspring's astonishing life-size puppets are utterly, magically alive thanks to their talented army of puppeteers and Toby Sedgwick's phenomenal choreography. Ages 10+.

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  • Matilda the Musical

    The RSC, Dennis Kelly and Tim Minchin's fabulous, energetic and more than a little mischievous adaptation of Roald Dahl's classic is still a hot ticket on the West End. Over half term, tickets may well be particularly difficult to come by, so we'd advise booking as early as possible. Ages 6+.

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  • Hannah

    It's typical of London's premiere children's theatre the Unicorn to try something as ambitious as this: an adaptation of Marlowe's seminal, dark, intriguing play 'Dr Faustus' reimagined by playwright Chris Thorpe for kids. Thorpe's shows for adults are always inventive and intriguing, so it will be interesting to see what he has in store with 'Hannah' which tells the story of one girl who questions right and wrong and the lure of power appearance and reality. Ages 11+.

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  • Emil and the Detectives

    It's not often that a tale like Erich Kastner's 84-year old story about the plucky boy Emil who is robbed on a train and decides to track down the thief, gets a stage production. Let alone a big budget, high production one such as this one from the National Theatre. Our number one, then, is Bijan Sheibani’s ambitious, whirling show with its huge child cast of streetwise youths. It's not long till the show ends, though, so half term may be the best time to catch it before it closes. Ages 7+.

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Red Riding Hood

Mike Kenny's adaptation of that gothic, enduring fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm returns to West London's children's theatre Polka after a 2012 run. Despite the story's inherent darkness this production is undoubtedly for kids, with Kenny's Olivier-winning skills being paired with fun songs by Julian Butler. Here, a little girl stays at her grandma's and her little brother wants to tag along but there's too much excitement for them to sleep. Ages 4-7.

READ MORE

  1. View the top ten as a countdown
  2. View the top ten as a list

Find more wonderful children's theatre

The sure-fire way to keep the whole family happy (and quiet). Enchant the little ones and delight the bigger ones with one of London's excellent family shows.

Visit our guide to family theatre in London


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