Top 10 children's theatre shows this half-term

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

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 Easter holiday, from puppet shows to kid-friendly musicals.


Adventures in Wonderland

Don't miss this immersive multi-sensory adventure for children aged five and up. It's an entire world of 'Alice in Wonderland' staged over several rooms underground. A companion show to the adult 'Alice's Adventures Underground'.

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The Vaults Until Sunday May 31 2015

The Paper Dolls

This looks set to be a treat – the Little Angel teams up with the Polka Theatre for this adaptation of 'The Gruffalo' author Julia Donaldson's book, 'The Paper Dolls'. It's a charming-sounding domestic adventure in which a little girl's imagination runs wild through her house and garden with a string of paper dolls, meeting a the likes of a snappy oven-glove-crocodile along the way. Ages 3-7.

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Against Captain’s Orders: A Journey into the Uncharted

Critics' choice

Immersive theatre pioneers Punchdrunk branch out with this show for kids at the National Maritime Museum. Created for kids aged six to 12, there's little known about the show, as always with Punchdrunk. It's a mixture of an exhibition and a play, where teams of children take on seafaring roles.

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National Maritime Museum Until Monday August 31 2015

Planeta Ka

Take your little ones (ages 1-3) over to the Unicorn theatre so they can experience this strange and mysterious land. The makers of popular show 'Sensacional' create a show where an explorer discovers a strange world and then lets audience members explore it too.

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Unicorn Theatre Thursday May 7 2015 - Thursday June 4 2015

Henry the Fifth

'Henry The Fifth' returns to the Unicorn in May 2015. ‘Henry V’ is probably one of the hardest Shakespeare plays to adapt for children. It’s wordy and its main themes are about courage and leadership: characteristics a little irrelevant to the pre-teens. So Belgian playwright Ignace Cornelissen – who produced an excellent kids’ version of ‘The Winter’s Tale’ last year – has taken the play apart for the Unicorn Theatre and created something quite different with its fragments.

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Unicorn Theatre Sunday May 17 2015 - Sunday May 31 2015
Manuel Harlan

The Twits

Another Dahl adaptation to join 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' and 'Matilda' though this time its not a musical. Dahl's short novel 'The Twits' is adapted by Enda Walsh and staged at the Royal Court in time for Easter. It's bound to be naughty, dark and deliciously disgusting. And if it's anywhere near as successful as the other two, a massive hit. Ages 8-plus.

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Royal Court Theatre Until Saturday May 30 2015

Operation Magic Carpet

Go all exotic over Easter with this intriguing play for ages six-11 from Polka theatre. On the warm streets of Baghdad a young girl meets a journey and a magic carpet and heads off on a quest. Classic 'Arabian Nights' updated for your little ones.

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Polka Theatre Wednesday May 6 2015 - Sunday May 24 2015

The Railway Children

Critics' choice

Mike Kenny’s hit stage adaptation chugs into a new station at King’s Cross with all its charm and energy intact. E Nesbit’s book-turned-cult movie about three exceptionally well-mannered Edwardian children is essentially ‘Brief Encounter’ for families. But this lively live version is more than just a ticket for the nostalgia express.Admittedly, the 60-tonne star of the show is a very real museum piece, the big, brassy William Adams Express Passenger Engine No 563. But the human cast is jolly decent too: Jeremy Swift (aka Maggie Smith’s butler in ‘Downton’) brings comedy and gravitas to Mr Perks, the stationmaster who befriends the three children (nicely played by grown-ups) when they move up to Yorkshire after their father is wrongly imprisoned.The stage show is livelier and less exquisitely poignant than the movie: steam locomotive nerds may get misty eyed, but anyone who has the words ‘daddy, my daddy’ monogrammed onto their tear-stained pocket handkerchief may be disappointed. That’s largely a good thing in this kiddie-packed temporary theatre, erected over railway track that will shortly make way for Google’s London headquarters. Small viewers appreciate the thrilling and clever staging, which hoots, chuffs out smoke, and sends the railway children racing all over a set built on platforms either side of the track.The show has lost some of its pace since first outing, but it’s quality entertainment: so well-made that it might have been built in the same Nine Elms locomotiv

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King's Cross Theatre Tuesday May 5 2015 - Sunday September 6 2015

Matilda the Musical

Critics' choice

'My mummy says I'm a miracle,' lisps a pampered mini-me at a purgatorial kiddies' birthday party at the outset of this delicious, treacly-dark family show. The obnoxious ma and pa of its titular, gifted, pint-sized heroine are not, of course, quite so doting. But 'Matilda' must be making its creators, playwright Dennis Kelly and comedian-songsmith Tim Minchin, a very pair of proud parents. Opening to rave reviews in Stratford-upon Avon before transferring to the West End in 2011 and snatching up Olivier Awards with all the alacrity of a sticky-fingered child in a sweetshop, Matthew Warchus's RSC production remains a treat. With hindsight, Kelly and Minchin's musical, born of the 1988 novel by that master of the splendidly grotesque Roald Dahl, is a little too long and, dramatically, a tad wayward. But like curly-haired little girl in the famous nursery rhyme, when it is good, it is very, very good. And it's even better when it's horrid. The past few months have seen some cast changes, including, alas, the departure of Bertie Carvel's tremendous Miss Trunchbull, headmistress of the dread Crunchem Hall School, former Olympic hammer-thrower and a gorgon of monumental nastiness, complete with scarily Thatcher-esque tics of purse-lipped gentility and faux concern. David Leonard doesn't quite match the squirm-inducing, hair-raising detail of Carvel in the role, but his more butch, granite-faced version is fantastically horrible nonetheless. And if Paul Kaye as Matilda's loathsom

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Cambridge Theatre Tuesday May 5 2015 - Sunday December 20 2015

The Lion King

The posters have been plastered around the London Underground for years – long enough for this show to become the most successful musical of all time – but nothing prepares you for the sheer impact of 'The Lion King's opening sequence. With the surge of 'Circle Of Life' reverberating through your chest, Julie Taymor's animal creations march on, species by species. Gazelles spring, birds swoop and an elephant and her child lumber through the stalls. It's a cacophonous cavalcade that genuinely stops you breathing. You'd think Noah's Ark had emptied onto the stage. For a global blockbuster, 'The Lion King's absolute theatricality is astonishing. Techniques from all over the world – African masks, Japanese Kabuki costumes, Malaysian shadow puppetry – are smashed together in an explosion of spectacle. It's perfect for a musical, allowing both distinct flavours and an eclectic carnival spirit. Admittedly, things deflate when it sacrifices this defiant originality for subservient approximation of the film. Timon and Pumba (Damian Baldet and Keith Bookman), though impressively like their screen counterparts, step into the savannah from a different dimension. The hyena-infested elephant's graveyard swaps menace for goofiness and the famous stampede scene, so delicately handled and moving in the film, is merely ticked off with a sigh of relief. The familiarity of the film is a root cause of the show's commercial success. But, ironically, 'The Lion King' can't afford such compromis

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Lyceum Theatre Tuesday May 5 2015 - Sunday October 4 2015

Looking for more Easter holiday ideas?

Easter in London

The first bank holiday weekend (Friday April 3 – Monday April 6 2015) of the year is on the horizon so grab your diary and get organising. 

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