Theatre for all the family
'Matilda' must be making its creators, playwright Dennis Kelly and comedian-songsmith Tim Minchin, a very pair of proud parents. Like the 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.
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. For a global blockbuster, 'The Lion King's absolute theatricality is astonishing. It's perfect for a musical, allowing both distinct flavours and an eclectic carnival spirit.
Theatre for children (5+)
Starring seven actors and 30 handmade animal puppets, this show brings Victorian naturalist Charles Darwin's story to life. Aged 22, he set out on the HMS Beagle, and encountered flora and fauna that led him to discover the theory of evolution. Unfolding in a specially created theatre space at the heart of the Natural History Museum, this is a whimsical look at a landmark moment in scientific history. 'The Wider Earth' is the handiwork of David Morton (creative director of Aussie company Dead Puppet Society) and comes to the Natural History Museum after premiering in Queensland in 2016. Ages 10-plus.
Unicorn Theatre's Christmas show is a collection of the Grimm brothers' legendarily horrible, fantastical fairy stories, as retold by 'Northern Lights' author Philip Pullman. Featuring powerful witches, brave children and magical forest creatures, his bold reimaginings of the tales will be adapted for the stage by Philip Wilson, and directed by Kirsty Housley.
Dr Seuss's infectiously catchy rhyming stories are the inspiration behind this peppy family musical, which lands at Southwark Playhouse just in time for Christmas. Written by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, and co-conceived by Monty Python’s Eric Idle, it mixes an anarchic spirit with a buzzing electronic score. James Tobias directs. Suitable for all ages.
This glitzy, rainbow bright show for kids is masterminded by Aussie cabaret stars Briefs Factory (producers of 'Hot Brown Honey' and 'Briefs', both of which are definitely for grown-ups only). 'Brat Kids Carnival' is a 45-minute show full of high-energy acts that'll make children long to run away with the circus. The line-up includes giant puppets by Lisa Fa'alafi, aerial hoop routines by circus star Crystal Stacey, clowning by Mr Monkey and acrobatics by Luke Hubbard. Ages 4-plus.
Battersea Arts Centre was a pretty wonderful place to explore even before a huge redevelopment project restored the Grand Hall, post fire. Now kids will get a chance to adventure down its corridors with 'Return to Elm House', an interactive show that's inspired by the building that used to stand on the BAC's site, and true story of Wandswoth foster care pioneer Jeanie Nassau Senior. Ages six-plus.
A witch soars across the skies – and picks up a few animal pals along the way – in this adaptation of the best-selling picture book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffer. It's created by Tall Stories, who've created a host of loveable stagings of storybook favourites, and uses their typical combo of sing-a-longs, puppetry, and quirky humour. Ages three to eight.
Inspired by Oscar Wilde's famous fairy story, this magical family show centres on a lonely giant. She locks herself away in a cold, dark house, but gradually, the children who come to play in her garden start to thaw her heart. 'The Selfish Giant' is Omnibus's Christmas show for 2018, their follow-up to last year's 'Zeraffa Giraffa'. It's created by local companies Soup Soap Theatre and Tessa Bide Productions. Ages three-plus.
A biscuity escapee is the star of this perky show by Hiccup Theatre. 'The Gingerbread Man' follows its star's quest to escape a whole town's worth of hungry mouths. This version, which originated at Derby Theatre, is an imaginative staging which keeps the story moving with catchy guitar songs.
A theatrical spin-off from the BBC documentary series of the same name, 'Walking With Dinosaurs' is an Australian production that first toured the UK in 2009, but has since tweaked its content and shuffled its beastly cast. It's part educational programme, part wow-factor spectacular, and is pitched very much at families.
The Wrong Crowd's offbeat take on a classic fairytale puts poor Cinders to work in a 1950s beauty salon, presided over by her wicked stepmother. And when she sets Prince Charming's quiff, sparks start to fly... 'Snow White', which plays Ovalhouse over Christmas, is a family show that mixes puppetry, live music irreverent spins on bedtime story favourites. Ages six-plus.
Theatre for young children (0-4)
A Unicorn Theatre long-runner, Sarah Argent and Kevin Lewis's ‘Baby Show’ is one of London's rare regular theatre experiences for the very young. A light and sound-based sensory experience for ages six-to-18-months, it tends to be very popular and advance booking is advised.
This Lyric Christmas staple brings Raymond Briggs’s ‘Father Christmas’ to enchanting life. The author of ‘The Snowman’ is known for his beautiful depictions of the season – and this adaptation by theatre company Pins and Needles is equally charming...
A daddy penguin learns to care for his newly hatched chick in this show for todders. After their interactive arctic adventure 'Breaking the Ice' last year, Filskit Theatre are back at the Unicorn Theatre with their new show 'Huddle'. They'll use sparky projections and sounds to bring an icy landscape to life, and show how a baby and parent learn to thrive in a chilly landscape. Ages two-to-five. This show is autism-friendly and deaf-friendly.
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