Sure, we’re still on tenterhooks to find out what kind of post-lockdown world we’ll be emerging into, but we’re choosing to be optimistic about making this the most festive season we can for theatrelovers. We’ve made a list, we’ve checked it twice — here are the Christmas shows, in real life and online, to book now.
2020: it’s been an utter ‘mare (oh yes it has). The National Theatre don’t normally do pantos, but then this hasn’t been a normal year — most other theatres across the capital were forced to cancel theirs, so the NT is helping to keep this very British festive tradition alive. Created by Jude Christian and Cariad Lloyd, it promises to be full of jokes, songs and silliness.
Dec 11 to Jan 23, National Theatre; nationaltheatre.org.uk
Pantoland at the Palladium
Hurrah! Another sign that the rumours of Christmas’s demise this year have been (hopefully) exaggerated: the Palladium’s star-studded annual panto is back. Audiences will be in the trusted and fabulous hands of Julian Clary and Elaine Paige for a show-stopping extravaganza, also starring Beverley Knight, Charlie Stemp and Ashley Banjo & Diversity.
Dec 12 to Jan 3, London Palladium; lwtheatres.co.uk
If pantos on speed is your thing — you never know — then this Olivier-nominated show is for you. Created by comedy duo Dan and Jeff, it features seven pantos in 70 minutes, taking audiences on a whistle-stop slapstick ride from Dick Whittington to Cinderella.
Dec 5 to Jan 10, Garrick Theatre; nimaxtheatres.com
A Christmas Carol
Don’t fret thesps, it’s not all going to be custard pies and Dick jokes this Christmas. Respected actors Simon Russell Beale, Patsy Ferran and Eben Figueiredo will be forming a trio to play all the parts in Dicken’s festive fable at the Bridge, directed by Nicholas Hytner.
Dec 3 to Jan 16, Bridge Theatre; bridgetheatre.co.uk
Nine Lessons and Carols: Stories for a Long Winter
The Almeida reopens its doors with a show specially devised for the moment that we’re living through. Director Rebecca Frecknall and playwright Chris Bush will work with a company of six actors to address themes of connection, isolation and what it’s been like to live in a year of so little social contact. Will it make us blub? Probably.
Dec 5 to Jan 6, Almeida Theatre; almeida.co.uk
The festive magic that we need, and the festive magic that we deserve: the Royal Ballet’s pretty-as-a-picture production of The Nutcracker will be back this Christmas. The much-loved show has been made Covid-safe, but everyone’s favourite scenes are still here, from the Sugar Plum Fairy’s pas de deux with her prince to the jaw-dropping giant Christmas tree.
Dec 11 to Jan 3, Royal Opera House; roh.org.uk
The Little Match Girl
More premium entertainment for all the family, this time at Sadler’s Wells: Arthur Pita’s top notch production of one of Hans Christian Andersen’s weepier tales returns for another year, as a young girl wanders the streets on Christmas Eve, with only one match left to keep her warm.
Dec 17-27, Sadler’s Wells; sadlerswells.com
Cinderella: The Socially Distanced Ball
Suffice to say the slippers we have been wearing all year have NOT been made out of glass, but we still support Cinderella’s need for a good night out. Written by Jodie Prenger and Neil Hurst, with a cast including Rufus Hound, this adult pantomime comes with a disclaimer that it is not for ‘the faint-hearted and those easily offended by smut’.