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  • Writer's pictureSarah

London plays, experiences and pantos - some suggestions for Christmas shows 2023

Updated: Dec 12, 2023

Christmas Plays in London

A Christmas Carol

This has to be on most people's 'feel good' Christmas show lists, whether in London or elsewhere - The Barn at Oxted, The Theatre Royal at Winsor, or Alexandra Palace.


The Old Vic is putting on its annual version, now in it's 7th year; the cast changes but the staging is the same each year. This year it's Christopher Eccleston's turn to tread the boards as Scrooge. It's a lovely production and if you haven't seen it before, it's certainly going to warm the cockles of your heart. Our review from 2021 and previous years is here.


When: 13 November 2023 - 6 January 2024

Running Time: Approximately two hours and five minutes plus a 20 minute interval

Suitability: for ages 8+

Prices from: from £41

Address: The Old Vic, The Cut, London SE1 8NB

Telephone: 0344 871 7628


Press image of A Sherlock Carol, with two men, one holding a candle and the other, Sherlock Holmes, staring with intent.
A Sherlock Carol
A Sherlock Carol

For something rather different, we're looking forward to seeing A Sherlock Carol.

It's been three Christmases since the famous confrontation with his nemesis Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls, and Sherlock Holmes has lost his appetite for mince pies or for solving crime. As he wanders through Victorian London, he meets a grown-up and not-so-Tiny Tim who beseeches him to investigate the mysterious death of his reformed benefactor, one Ebenezer Scrooge.


The mystery unfolds; a seemingly impossible murder, a threatening letter, and a missing diamond - it’s just enough to intrigue the great Holmes. But it’s a dark and treacherous Christmas Eve, and once again the night is haunted by the spirits of the past, present, and future. Using his powers of deduction, can Holmes overcome his own ghosts to crack the case?


The worlds of Charles Dickens and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle combine on stage in this ‘instant holiday classic’, coming to London for the second year running , just a stone’s throw from Holmes’ fictional base at 221B Baker Street itself.


Address: Marylebone Theatre, Rudolf Steiner House, 35 Park Road, London, NW1 6XT

When: 24 November 2023 - 7 January 2024

Suitability: age 10+

Performances: Monday - Saturday at 7.30pm

Matinees: Wednesday & Saturday at 2.30pm

Thursday 8 Dec, Friday 9 Dec, Tuesday 13 Dec, Thursday 15, 1 show only at 2.00pm

Christmas Eve & New Year’s Eve 1.00pm & 5.00pm

Prices: from £15


Christmas Experiences and Shows in London

Faulty Towers Christmas Dining
Waiter standing on table bent over female diner
Up close encounter with Manuel!

I'm sure that we're all familiar with the 1970s sitcom, 'Fawlty Towers' which this experience takes it's inspiration from. Its characters are household names; the reluctant and irascible hotelier Basil, hapless Manuel the waiter, shrewish Sybil, competent Polly the waitress/chambermaid/receptionist, drunken chef Terry and the array of guests who came through the doors over the course of the 12 episodes.


You may not be so familiar with the fact that Basil was based on a real person, who ran a hotel where the Pythons stayed at one point. Donald Sinclair would rather have stayed in the Navy than helped run his wife's hotels, and it showed. He came to an untimely end in 1981, aged 72, reportedly from a stroke and heart attack after some workmen he'd upset painted his patio furniture and car gunmetal grey during the night. One can only hazard a guess at what the provocation actually constituted!


It's pretty amazing to think that this immersive experience is now in it's 15th year in the UK, with the London residency at the President Hotel extended until December 2024. 2023 has also seen sell-out residencies in Manchester and Leicester, which will return in 2024. Other residencies have been announced for Birmingham and Edinburgh, as well as a series of international touring dates including The Netherlands, Sweden, Ireland, Denmark, and Norway.


Devised by Alison Pollard-Mansergh, Andrew Foreman and others, the show has been touring the UK and internationally since 2008, having appeared in 41 countries to date, and employing 56 actors per season. The show is also London’s longest running immersive experience. It is a tribute to the original, not a re-creation, and uses all it's own scripts.

Two men in checked jackets and smart ties
The other guests at our table thought that my dad was part of the show!

We went last year to enjoy the mayhem and had a really fun afternoon. It seems that my father shares his dress sense with Basil! (the actors do change, so 'our Basil' may not be the one you meet)


There is also a special Christmas menu.


Prices vary depending on the sitting booked with a reduction for groups of ten, the over 60s and children. These include the cost of the show and the meal, drinks are paid for separately and can be pre-ordered on the website.

Venue: The President Hotel 56-60 Guilford Street, London WC1N 1DB

Nearest tube: Russell Square, it's also walkable from Holborn, Tottenham Court Road, Euston, King's Cross and St Pancras.


La Clique

Having been to many circus shows, this really does seem to have it all. It's a great festive treat and all round entertainment. This entertainment show has toured the globe and is in London during the festive period.


It has all the essence and tradition of a cabaret, but with some spectacular circus acts and some music and comedy sprinkled around the edges. I have seen this show before and would highly recommend, but it's very much an adults entertainment show (age 16+) as it contains partial nudity, adult themes, strobe & flashing lights, strong language and loud noises. The reviews are great!


Address: Spiegeltent Leicester Square, Leicester Square, London WC2H 7NA

Box office: 0131 510 0395

Tickets: https://lacliquetheshow.com/events/christmas-in-leicester-square/ Suitability: Age recommendation 16+ When: 08 November - 06 January Duration: 110 minutes including interval Price: From £22.50 (plus £1.50 in booking fees per ticket)


London Pantomines

Wilton's - Potted Panto
Cast of Potted Panto behind the bar with 1 person seated
You probably won't see the cast behind the bar at Wiltons! Daniel Clarkson, Jefferson Turner - photocredit, Josh McLure

If you want the whole pantomime experience in one fell swoop, Potted Panto is for you. How many pantos can be performed in just 70 minutes by Daniel Clarkson, Jefferson Turner (former CBBC TV presenters) and Richard Hurst? It seems that the answer is a lot! We are promised a madcap ride through the biggest stories and best-loved characters from the wonderful world of pantomime.


We will see this dastardly double act dash between rubbing Aladdin’s lamp to roaming the golden streets of Dick Whittington’s London and making sure that Cinderella gets to the Ball. Snow White and Seven Dwarfs is a challenge for the two- hander, and which will be the prettiest to play Sleeping Beauty?


We saw this last year and it was very funny, a 70 minute long riot of silliness.


Address: 1 Graces Alley, London E1 8JB

Box office: 020 7702 2789

Tickets: https://www.wiltons.org.uk/whatson/828-potted-panto/243948 Suitability: Age recommendation 6+ When: 29th November to 30th December Duration: 70 minutes no interval Price: £12.00 - £32.00 full price / £10.00 - £29.50 concessions


Aladdin at Hackney Empire
A Genie channelling Elvis, a traditional dame and a naïve Aladdin.

Sometimes only a traditional panto will do. It's quite complicated to explain if you haven't grown up with panto - so go along and enjoy the ride, and be prepared to join in booing the villain and shouting 'It's behind you'. Aladdin promises to deliver this in spades. Directed by and starring Clive Rowe as Widow Twankey, alongside Natasha Lewis as Abby-na-zaaar!, Ruth Lynch as Spirit of the Ring, Fred Double as Aladdin, Isabella Mason as Jazz, George Heyworth as Mildew Funk, Rishi Manuel as Wishy, and Kat B as the Genie


"Join us on a journey to a magical world, as the much-loved tale of Aladdin flies into Hackney this festive season! Aladdin dreams of finding love and making his fortune. When he discovers an enchanted lamp and meets a mysterious genie, it looks like all of his wishes are going to come true. But are they, or will forces of evil stand in the way…? Expect an unbelievable cast, incredible costumes, uncontrollable laughter and song and dance numbers that are nothing short of genie-us!"


Address: 291 Mare Street, London, E8 1EJ

Box office: 020 8985 2424

Tickets: www.hackneyempire.co.uk Suitability: All ages welcome. Children 3 years and under may sit on the lap of an adult, children 4+ require their own ticket. When: Saturday 18th November to Sunday 31st December Duration: TBC Price: £10 - £45 (plus £1.20 per ticket online, £1.40 per ticket over the phone)


Aladdin at the Fairfield Halls
Back LtoR Kiera-Nicole 'Jasmine', Davood Ghadami 'Abanazer' and Richard J Hunt 'Widow Twankey'. Front LtoR Kian Zomorodian 'Aladdin' and Charlie Guest 'Wishee Washee' -  photo credit Jack Dryden
Back LtoR Kiera-Nicole 'Jasmine', Davood Ghadami 'Abanazer' and Richard J Hunt 'Widow Twankey'. Front LtoR Kian Zomorodian 'Aladdin' and Charlie Guest 'Wishee Washee' - Photo credit Jack Dryden

Meanwhile in South London, Aladdin is also the pantomine of choice. We are invited to Join hero Aladdin, his mother Widow Twankey and his brother Wishee Washee as they embark on a magical adventure and try to defeat the evil Abanazar and his plan to become master of the world with help from the Genie of The Lamp and the Spirit Of The Ring.

An enchanting tale of magic, mayhem and misunderstandings live on the famous Ashcroft Theatre stage. Aladdin is promised to be a laugh-a-minute extravaganza with stunning sets, musical hits, fabulous costumes and amazing special effects to keep audiences both young and old entertained!

Address: Park Lane, Croydon, CR0 1JD

Box office: fairfield.co.uk

Tickets: https://tickets.fairfield.co.uk/ Suitability: All ages welcome. When: Sat 16th Dec 2023Sun 7th Jan 2024 Duration: TBC Price: £16.50 - £36. Tickets and group bookings are available from bhlivetickets.co.uk with special early bird rates and super schools offers also available


Drag Christmas Shows in London

The Jinkx & DeLa Holiday Show
Photo credit Santiago Felipe

Global drag icons and RuPaul’s Drag Race stars, BenDeLaCreme and Jinkx Monsoon are coming back to a town near you with the wildly successful, internationally acclaimed, The Jinkx & DeLa Holiday Show (Produced by BenDeLaCreme Presents). This is an ambitious international tour, taking place in the UK, Canada and the US.


BenDeLaCreme and Jinkx Monsoon are the sole writers of their holiday shows, a major achievement for two drag artists who tour at such a large scale. With BenDeLaCreme also in the producer and director’s chairs, the show is entirely helmed by the queens themselves.


Following the massive success of four previous holiday tours, and a cult-classic holiday film (The Jinkx & DeLa Holiday Special, 2020), we can expect another year of fabulous spectacle, whip-smart comedy, brand new songs, and annual favourites. Having seen JinkX perform in another show, I know that this queen can sing. Join the sugary DeLa and the spicy Jinkx for an evening The New York Times says is “sure to lift your spirits and make you howl with laughter.”


When: November 8th - December 30th

UK Dates: November 13 - London, UK (The London Palladium)

November 14 - Liverpool, UK (Liverpool Olympia)

November 16 - London, UK (The London Palladium)


Tinderella
Press image of Tinderella showing a large pumpkin in the shape of testicles with magic dust around it.  The background is a silhouette  of a castle.
Tinderella

Leave the kids at home for this one - this is entertainment for the adults only. Tinderella, Two Big Balls, One Happy Ending! is described as a very naughty twist on the classic fairy tale, so naturally we are very intrigued and looking forward to how this panto combines classic with something new. Who doesn't like a bit of innuendo and laughter?


"Tinderella is a whizz on social media, a real influencer, but it’s all a charade because poor Tinders has no money, no man and none of the glamorous life she claims to be living.

Until one day, she meets not one, but two Princes in the woods…. But who has the biggest balls? Will this be her happy ending or will she lose more than her shoe?!"


It seems rather silly but that is the essence of the production, and it might be one of those panto's that you will either love or hate. This is for a very specific audience but we think it will be kind of great.


Address: Union Theatre, Arch 22 & 23 Old Union Yard Arches, 229 Union Street, London, SE1 0LR

Dates: 26 November - 23 December 2023

Times:

Evenings at 7.30pm

Sunday at 2pm

Opening Night at 5pm

Price: £15 - £29

Running Time: 2 hours including interval





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