Despite months of getting our hopes up, Christmas in the West End is indeed cancelled: theatres couldn’t open in Tier 3 – let alone Tier 4 – and there is zero prospect of London coming out of tough restrictions until 2021. However, don’t despair: plenty of productions had digital backup plans in place long ago, and some shows simply didn’t take the risk of inviting a live audience and were always geared to being performed to an online audience. Here are five of the best.
The Old Vic has unexpectedly smashed 2020 with its hugely popular In Camera series of plays streamed live from its stage to paying online audiences. The biggest and most ambitious show in the series to date is Jack Thorne’s giddy take on ‘A Christmas Carol’, which returns to the Vic for the fourth time, with Andrew Lincoln this time starring as Ebenezer Scrooge.
Until Christmas Eve. Book here.
In some ways, the toughest loss of all this season is the National Theatre’s panto, ‘Dick Whittington’. It was designed to cheer up London after most of our regular pantomimes were cancelled, but it only got a few performances into its run before being forced to shut. However, it was filmed and will stream for free on the NT’s YouTube channel over Christmas, before transferring to streaming platform National Theatre at Home in January. There are hopes that live performances can resume in 2021, but that’s out of the NT’s hands.
Another show that was only intended for online viewing, the Donmar Warehouse’s ‘Looking a Lot Like Christmas’ is an evening of story and song that gathers together performers as diverse as Imelda Staunton, Minnie Driver and Giles Terera for a chilled-out festive affair that was filmed at the Actors’ Church in Covent Garden. It will run on the Donmar’s YouTube channel until next year.
Until Jan 5.
Not so long ago, London was due to play host to three productions of much-loved festive ballet ‘The Nutcracker’ this Christmas. That’s obviously gone to pot, but you can still catch one of them online: Birmingham Royal Ballet’s take on Tchaikovsky's magical classic was due to pitch up at the Royal Albert Hall straight after Christmas, but can instead be watched as a stream recorded at Birmingham Rep for the rest of this week.
Until Dec 24. Book here.
Act quickly and you could catch anarchic Time Out faves Sh!t Theatre with a live stream of their bizarre, definitely adults-only takedown of Richard Curtis’s loathed-slash-loved opus ‘Love Actually’. If you can bear to rewatch the film beforehand, some of the jokes will land better, but it’s a hoot any which way.
Until Dec 22. Book here.
More theatre for Christmas. Consult our list of the best theatre shows to stream online right now.
Fancy venturing out? Here’s a load of Christmassy stuff you can still do despite Tier 3.