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Bluey’s Big Play The Stage Show
Photograph: Courtesy Darren ThomasBluey’s Big Play The Stage Show

The best Christmas theatre shows for kids and families

Find festive entertainment for your little ones with our guide to 2023’s best Christmas theatre for kids and families

Andrzej Lukowski
Written by
Andrzej Lukowski
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Help make Christmas even more magical while they’re still little with one of London’s many festive theatre shows created with small people in mind.

We’ve divided our list into family-friendly Christmas shows – that is to say, shows suitable for children, but not necessarily aimed at them specifically – and shows that are directly aimed at a younger audience.

Please note that the great family-friendly British Christmas tradition of the pantomime is such a big thing at Christmas that we haven’t included any here – they have their own page (see link below).

RECOMMENDED: The best Christmas pantomimes in London.

Find more Christmas shows in London. 

Christmas shows for all the family

  • Theatre
  • Comedy
  • South Bank

This Richard Curtis-curated charity shindig sounds like a mini festive Comic Relief, live from the stage of the Royal Festival Hall. We’re promised a ‘witty and enchanting evening will capture all of the fun and laughter of Christmas through a treasure trove of entertainment’. Expect poems, carols, celebrities, schmaltz and very earnest bits – it’ll probably be overegged, but that is very much the nature of the season, and it’s all to a good cause. 

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  • Theatre
  • Outdoor theatres
  • South Bank

Hold on to your gingerbread lattes! This year’s outdoor Christmas show at the Globe – that is, it’s not in the indoor Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, it’s really outside – is a brand new verse adaptation of the classic fairytale ‘Hansel and Gretel’ courtesy of the great Simon Armitage. 

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  • Theatre
  • Drama
  • Kingston

The Rose Theatre Kingston is the last great London bastion of putting on a big Christmas show: ‘Peter Pan’ isn’t a panto, or the classic JM Barrie play, but new version by playwright Evan Placey, with songs by Vikki Stone. 

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  • Theatre
  • Children's
  • Camberwell

The immortal fairytale about the long-locked princess gets a distinctly southeast London spin – weaves are very much involved – in this festive ‘hairy tale’ from Theatre Peckham, penned by Geoff Aymer, Jordan Xavier and Suzann McLean. The fun, song-filled romp is suitable for all ages. 

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  • Theatre
  • Comedy
  • Finsbury Park

As the title makes crystal clear, Steven Canny and John Nicholson’s play isn’t a straightforward adaptation of HG Wells’s visionary proto-sci-fi, but rather a comedy about a trio of idiots trying to make a stage adaptation of HG Wells’s visionary proto-sci-fi. Ages ten-plus.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • South Bank

Sure, it’s notionally aimed at families. But the National Theatre’s Roald Dahl adaptation ‘The Witches’ really is for everyone, (everyone over eight anyway). Because it’s quite easily the funniest new musical London has seen since at least ‘The Book of Mormon’. 

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  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Covent Garden

Lovable live art types Little Bulb bagged an Oliver for best family show last year with this delightful folk opera romp, which merrily splices the Little Red Riding Hood story with numerous other beloved fairy tales, plus a ten-piece band playing klezmer and Italian folk-inflected tunes. Now it returns for 2023.

Christmas shows for kids

  • Theatre
  • Children's
  • South Bank

One of the clear wins of modern parenthood is indoctrination in the ways of ‘Bluey’, the unreasonably funny Australian cartoon about the eponymous young dog and the bizarre ways that she and her family find to amuse themselves. It is, to be frank, exactly the sort of beloved show liable to get a crass stage treatment that misses all the quirky humour. But this touring production is, blessedly, based on an original story by the show’s creator Joe Blumm, plus original music by its composer Joff Bush. Not only that, but the voices are all pre-recorded by the show’s cast: so accepting you’re not terrified of puppets, it should all be golden.

It sounds like the ‘plot’ is a mash-up of new stuff and classic scenes from the show, but ‘Bluey’ is pretty much a show that you can’t go wrong with.

  • Theatre
  • Children's
  • Tower Bridge

A seasonal return to the Unicorn for Julian Clary’s own adaptation of his kids’ book about a family of hyenas living a life in disguise as a regular suburban human family, the Bolds. Featuring songs by Clary and Simon Wallace, it’s directed by Lee Lyford. Ages six-plus.

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  • Theatre
  • Children's
  • Canonbury

The team behind the Little Angel’s recent West End transfer hit ‘The Smartest Giant in Town’ – that’s Barb Jungr and Samantha Lane – join forces again for another major adaptation of a picturebook by colossally beloved writer-illustrator duo Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. 

  • Theatre
  • Children's
  • Bloomsbury

Santa's elves are on a mission to make sure his mail arrives in time in much-loved puppet theatre Little Angel's show, which has a run at the Bloomsbury Theatre this Christmas. 'Finding Santa' uses puppetry and snowy scenery to bring the North Pole to life, in a performance that's just right for the run-up to the holidays. Ages three-to-eight. 

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  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Children's
  • Barbican

Shape-shifting stage veterans Told by an Idiot finally make a foray into children’s theatre with this madcap little gem aimed at ages four and above…

  • Theatre
  • Children's
  • Charing Cross Road

Tall Stories' musical adaptation of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler's award-winning sequel to 'The Gruffalo' is packed with inventive storytelling, energy and furry jumpsuits from the cast of three. Ages three-plus.

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  • Theatre
  • Children's
  • Deptford

Ten years ago, the National Theatre staged a lavish full-length musical adaptation – with songs by Tori Amos! – of this Scottish fairytale about a princess who inexplicably begins to float. This hourlong electro-musical from Barra Collins and Ellie Isherwood is clearly a more modest affair, but sounds intriguing. For ages three-to-seven.

  • Theatre
  • Children's
  • Wimbledon

Theatre show for little ones based on Clement Clarke Moore’s immortal 1923 poem (actually called ‘A Visit from St Nicholas’, though nobody calls it that now). It’s set on a chaotic Christmas Eve, which young Amber is rescued from by an unexpected visitor. Ages two-to-six.

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  • Theatre
  • Children's
  • Leicester Square

Peppa Pig has been churning out live shows for years now, and the advent of a new one is probably more to stop the creative team being bored to tears rather than the actual need to update for the same audience, fandom of the luridly-shaded porcine being pretty much a phase. 

Raymond Briggs' Father Christmas
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Children's
  • Hammersmith

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.

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Children's
  • Seven Dials

 

All Julia Donaldson adaptations are ultimately an exercise in making a book that takes five minutes to read last 45 or so minutes on stage. But the way ‘The Smartest Giant…’ goes about it really is lovely: Jungr’s songs are a cut above, especially a clutch of droll electro-pop numbers.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Children's
  • Wimbledon

Jude Christian is an achingly cool leftfield playwright and director… and apparently a massive Christmas fan, having been a mainstay of the Lyric Hammersmith panto creative team for years.

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  • Theatre
  • Off-West End
  • Leicester Square

Freckle Productions returns with its splendid puppet-driven family adaptation of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler's popular book. The hapless Stick Man's domestic idyll – living up a tree with his Stick Lady Love and their trio of stick sprogs – is shattered when an enterprising dog mistakes him for a common or garden piece of wood. Ages three-plus.

  • Theatre
  • Children's
  • Richmond

This new spin on Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ from writer-director Becca Chadder is aimed squarely at youngsters aged five to ten, and retells the slightly scary ghost story from the perspective of sweet little Tiny Tim.

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  • Theatre
  • Immersive
  • Waterloo

This major immersive all-ages Christmas show is masterminded by former Punchdrunk associate director Elgiva Field and created by the team behind Secret Cinemas. It sees audiences step into the Old Bauble Factory underneath Waterloo into a magical world where robins arrive with the world’s wishes, ready for processing by Santa and his crew of wishkeepers.

Wow! It's Night-time
  • Theatre
  • Children's
  • Islington

A curious little owl explores the night skies in Little Angel Theatre's new show for toddlers. It's an adaptation of a Tim Hopgood picture book, and the follow-up to its hit 'WOW! Said the Owl'. Puppets and gentle storytelling create a gentle story about the wonders of the forest after dark. Ages two-to-five.

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