Christmas is a-coming and it’s time to book yourself in for a panto. But which one to choose? Here’s our handy guide, borne from years of terrifyingly in-depth experience.
The classic one
‘Cinderella’, Hackney Empire
Hackney Empire’s annual panto is virtually its raison d’être. Under the steady eye of artistic director Susie McKenna, it’s a monument to classic pantomime: it’s got the best sets, the best singers, the most diverse cast, the liveliest crowd, the funniest jokes, and it’s absolutely, totally sleb-free.
Until Dec 31.
The cool one
‘Jack and the Beanstalk’, Lyric Hammersmith
The Lyric picks the hippest theatre folk out there and lets them go nuts writing a panto. This year it’s hot young playwright Joel Horwood’s turn. If past years are anything to go by, he’ll be having far too much fun to turn in something unfathomably avant-garde, but it’ll certainly have an edge.
Until Jan 6 2018.
The big one
‘Dick Whittington’, London Palladium
The home of British variety held its first panto in yonks last year and it was a rip-roaring success, powered by some huge household names. This year it’s doing it again, with Julian Clary front and centre to make the Dick jokes.
Dec 9-Jan 14 2018.
The glitzy one
‘Jack and the Beanstalk’, New Wimbledon Theatre
Until the Palladium muscled in, the New Wimbledon Theatre was the gaudiest show in town, with demented celebrity casting (memorably, a confused Pamela Anderson one year). It’s still spangly as hell, but has classed-up a bit: in a massive coup for 2017, it’s lured London’s best dame Clive Rowe over from Hackney Empire.
Dec 9-Jan 14 2018.
The boutiquey one
‘King Tut – A Pyramid Panto’ by Charles Court Opera, King’s Head Theatre
Fringe theatre and pantomime don’t tend to mix, but Charles Court Opera’s eccentric annual contributions to the canon are a glorious exception. Witty and weird (and with a handful of naughtier ‘adults-only’ performances) its works are distinguished by both their scale and their terrifically original plots.
Fri Nov 24-Jan 6 2018.
The dark (pantomime) horse
‘Rapunzel’, Theatre Royal Stratford East
Theatre Royal Stratford East’s annual festive blowout tends to be a little overshadowed by Hackney Empire’s, not least because the writing team changes from year to year. But Trish Cooke and Robert Hyman are its dream writing team, and they’re back to pen this year’s ‘Rapunzel’. Expect cracking original songs and the best panto villain around in Michael Bertenshaw.
Mon Nov 27-Jan 13 2018.