Where's the best place to catch a London pantomime for Christmas 2019? Is it behind you? Nope: it's in the panto list below. Check out the pantos coming to the capital this winter, from the old school music hall hijinks of the traditional pantos in east London, or glossy celebrity blowouts like the Palladium's starry bash.
RECOMMENDED: Find more Christmas shows in London
Pantomimes in central London
Even though the London Palladium’s Christmas pantos have only actually been running since 2016, the core team now seem pretty much inseparable: you get Julian Clarey being smutty, you get Paul Zerdin doing some ventriloquist malarkey, you get Nigel Havers doing an ironic Nigel Havers impression, and you get reaktive newcomer (he missed the 2016 show) Gary Wilmot on daming duty. This year they’re back with ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’, a somewhat off-piste choice that's rarely adapted into panto format. It’ll probably pull it off on sheer star power, though: Paul O’Grady (who previously did the 2016 panto) is back to star as The Evil Ringmaster (yeah, us neither) with Clarey as The Ringmaster, Paul Zerdin as Silly Billy, Nigel Havers as Daddy Bear and Gary Wilmot as Dame Betty Barnum, plus telly presenter Matt Baker as Joey the Clown.
Pantomimes in east London
Hackney Empire's panto is the typically the cream of the crop, with its gorgeous traditional sets, best-in-the-biz dame Clive Rowe, and East London spin on time-honoured gags. They haven't announced if Rowe's on board yet, but otherwise it seems to be business as usual for Susie McKenna, the panto's longtime writer and director. For 2019, it's 'Dick Whittington and His Cat', a rag-to-riches story with a magical moggy at its heart.
With original songs, an authentically East London feel and bargain basement prices, Theatre Royal Stratford East offers a panto experience to rival Hackney Empire's winning annual offering. This year, it's staging the story of a plucky lad, his cat, and their quest to make their fortune in London town. After penning the songs for several Stratford hit pantos in years gone by, Robert Hyman is back on board with a new collaborator, playwright David Watson. John Haidar directs.
Pantomimes in west London
The Lyric Hammersmith does quality panto. That’s the deal every year: a stylish remix of the festive tradition that deletes the very worst bits (like, for example, the casual racism and the implicit misogyny) and replaces it with cheery jokes about Brexit and killer dance routines…
Richmond Theatre's annual panto is one of the capital's more traditional offerings; featuring stars of a certain vintage and none of the brash glitter-cannon weirdness you'll get over in Wimbledon. This year's 'Snow White' features droll telly comedian Jo Brand in the role of the Evil Queen…
Pantomimes in south London
Greenwich Theatre's annual panto is the classic fairytale about the dozy princess and her fearsome apple-poisoning adversary. 'Sleeping Beauty' is the handiwork of Andrew Pollard, who's penned dozens of pantomimes for the venue, typically mixing appealingly glitzy sets, a pop soundtrack, and plenty of subversive touches.
Sleeping Trees pop up each Christmas with totally irreverent spins on panto tradition. This year they're mashing together the long-locked fairytale with a swashbuckling French adventure story to stage 'Goldilocks and the Three Musketeers' at Battersea Arts Centre. A small but hard-working cast of wise-cracking performers will romp through this mash-up story, with songs and audience participation a plenty. Ages four-plus.
Fairfield Halls is celebrating its first Christmas back in action after a major spruce up with this return to panto form. ‘Cinderella’ stars comedian Tim Vine as Buttons and CBeebies presenter Cat Sandion as Fairy Godmother, alongside a cast of musical theatre pros and a chorus of local youngsters from Croydon. It's produced by seasoned nationwide panto producers Imagine Theatre, who are promising to put a brand new spin on festive tradition.
Pantomimes in north London
Boutique panto mongers Charles Court Opera are back at King's Head Theatre with one of their signature seasonal spectaculars. After last year's Egyptian-themed knees up, they're wandering into more typically festive territory with a comic (but apparently respectful) look at Jesus's origin story. Writer/director John Savournin and songwriter David Eaton will cook up a gleeful, pun-filled take on the man who put the 'Christ' in Christmas.
Much-loved North London venue is putting on its mammoth annual panto, complete with a giant cast of hundreds of local youngsters. 'Snow White' is reimagined for a setting in '60s London, where its heroine embarks on a swinging adventure of self-discovery. Chickenshed boss Lou Stein will oversee the fun, directing a professional core cast and hordes of carefully choreographed young singers and dancers. Ages five-plus.
Retro rock, pop and soul classics make this panto stand out from the crowd. It follows Cinderella, who goes to the ball to ‘Shake a tail feather’ but ends up losing her slipper ‘In the midnight hour’. The show plays North London hub artsdepot this Christmas, after starting life at Ipswich's New Wolsey Theatre last year. It's written and directed by Peter Rowe, and stars a cast who play musical instruments as well as singing their way through the story.
This dinner theatre show serves up a menu of tempting delights, plus a drag version of pantomime fave 'Aladdin'. Drag performer ShayShay has created a lip-synching, filthy-joke-filled spin on Aladdin's bid to win over Princess Jasmine. Attendees are invited to come in fancy dress (but not the culturally appropriative kind) for a night of glitzy, inclusive panto fun.
This immersive show mixes panto fun with a proper Christmas night in the pub, complete with the chance to treat yourself to a freshly poured pint. Back for 2019 with a run at The Vaults, it's an anarchic, updated take on the story of 'Cinderella' that's told using songs by a live band. The story's written by Luke Barnes, who also penned hit gig theatre show 'All We Ever Wanted Was Everything', and it's produced by Not Too Tame.
Bonnets and blue jokes come together in this saucy take on Jane Austen's story. Kevin Quinn's panto at White Bear Theatre will reimagine a literary classic, panto style, complete with drag, slapstick, and a soundtrack of gay anthems.
Above the Stag's annual gay panto has won a dedicated fanbase with its blend of original songs, smart jokes and all-round drag silliness. This year, its writers Jon Bradfield and Martin Hooper are turning their attentions to the story of 'Pinocchio'; in their totally-not-for-kids rewrite, it's probably not his nose that grows when he tells a lie... Tickets tend to shift fast, so get in their early for some ribald festive fun.
Ru Paul's Drag Race UK contestant Baga Chipz is the star attraction of this adult panto. 'Cinderella' will play the low-key Sunday slot at Trafalgar Studios in the run up to Christmas, but there's nothing unassuming about TuckShop's festive extravaganza. Writer and director Stuart Saint has penned a script that's packed with filthy puns, pop songs, and seasoned drag and kings queens.
This adults-only panto is a riff on the time-honoured festive story 'Jack and the Giant Beanstalk'. After masterminding previous shows 'Snow White And The Seven Poofs' and 'A Lad In Soho', panto producer Simon Gross is back at Soho's Karma Sanctum with a night of knob jokes, classic pop songs, and dragged-up fun.
More family Christmas shows
Make Christmas more magical with a trip to one of London's many family-friendly Christmas shows. There's theatre big and bright enough to keep little ones enthralled and performances sweet and subtle enough to entertain the whole family. Find the one that all of your lot will love and book tickets so you don't miss out.
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