It's easy enough to find something festive to take your kids to, but what London theatre shows are going on for the grown-ups?
Panto Aladdin and cheesy moral Christmas plays aren’t the only way to enjoy the festive season.
London has so many great over-the-top, tinsel-filled knees-ups perfect for a proper festive night out with friends, and there’s a bit of something for everyone.
Here are our top picks:
A Christmas Carol-ish, Soho Theatre
It’s impossible to avoid the quintessential Christmas play, A Christmas Carol, particularly as it’s playing, in some form or other, at 12 London theatres this year. But we're in no danger here of having to endure the done-to-death classic; in the programme notes, Mr Swallow (Nick Mohammed) says, “It has been a real privilege getting to take the original text and change all the words, context and overall meaning such that it fits my very specific requirements.”
"It’s impossible to avoid the quintessential Christmas play, A Christmas Carol"
Yes, it’s a musical, but given Mr Swallow’s track record of unexpected, hilarious and magical shows, I thoroughly doubt it’ll look anything like your standard A Christmas Carol musical reboot.
La Clique, Leicester Square Speigeltent
Hidden in the heart of Leicester Square, amidst over-priced, tacky Christmas stalls selling boiled mulled wine and soggy roast chestnuts, is this gem of a show.
Every year the Speigeltent comes to town, bringing with it an array of lewd, lavish and wildly talented cabaret-circus acts.
Combining something of the home-spun with lashings of gravity-defying feats, comedy and a fair bit of nudity, all drenched in sequins and glittering jewels, one could argue this is the best reliable night out of the season.
A Pissedmas Carol, Leicester Square Theatre
While Sh!t Faced Showtime and Sh!t Faced Shakespeare’s A Pissedmas Carol does technically follow the usual plot of its bastardised namesake, it’s very unlikely that’s actually what you’ll get.
For those who’ve yet to enjoy a Sh!t Faced show, the script itself should be a fairly straight endeavour, and the cast will have rehearsed as such. The fun comes in the form of one random cast member getting very drunk before and during each performance, and likely spending most of the evening derailing the rest of the cast.
It’s such a simple idea but it always makes for an excellent evening, and each performance can be wildly different depending on whose named was pulled from the hat that night.
Yippee Ki Yay, Kings Head Theatre
I don’t think anyone really knows why, but there’s no argument that Die Hard is now a Christmas staple. Therefore, despite the lack of sequins and merry cheer, Yippee Ki Yay is actually an exemplary festive show.
First appearing to great acclaim at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, major Die Hard fan Richard Marsh has somehow created an abridged, rhyming retelling.
"There’s no argument that Die Hard is now a Christmas staple"
Playing all the characters himself, he also intersperses how he and his now-wife met through their shared passion for off-duty policeman-turned action hero, John McClane.
Mother Goose, Duke of York Theatre
If you absolutely have to go to a panto, I reckon a line-up of Ian McKellen and John Bishop is the way forward.
It’s billed pretty traditionally, following a classic storyline, with McKellen playing the dame, but while I’m sure they’ll have had plenty of fun making it, I bet they’re taking production value pretty seriously.
I can’t imagine Sir Ian in anything but the very finest frocks and wigs.
Jonny Woo’s Late Night Songbook, Soho Theatre
If you just fancy a proper piano-side sing-along in some excellent company, Jonny Woo’s the one for you.
Playing all his favourite tunes, Woo will be accompanied by some special guests. Last time he graced Soho Theatre he came paired with the inimitable Le Gateau Chocolat, so we know he rubs shoulders with the sequined elite.
"If you just fancy a proper piano-side sing-along in some excellent company, Jonny Woo’s the one for you"
The evening will no doubt be peppered with Woo’s iconic wit and charm, a flurry of fabulous outfits and a good time almost guaranteed.
Hakawatis: Women of the Arabian Nights, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse
A hushed, intimate, candle-lit theatre, the ceiling hand-painted with a starry night sky, it almost doesn’t matter what you see at the Sam Wanamaker, it’s just the perfect wintery venue.
This season they’re bringing a modern twist to the classic Middle Eastern folk tales, and what could be more perfect for a cold December evening than sitting by candle light while someone tells you fantastical stories from faraway?
Read more: The best off-West End theatres in London
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