‘He’s behind you!’ Love them or hate them, Christmas just isn’t Christmas without a panto, and London has plenty to pick from…
Lead image: Clive Rowe and Tameka Empson star in Aladdin at Hackney Empire (photo: Perou)
1 A Pair of Pantos, Canada Water Theatre
21 December & 22 December
A Pair of Pantos is a pantomime for all audiences, but in particular one which trans, non-binary and queer parents can feel comfortable taking their children to in the knowledge that their identity will not be a subject for gags. Malborough Theatre’s festive piece, written and directed by Hester Chillingworth, takes the basic story of two archetypical pantomimes – Dick Whittington and Jack and the Beanstalk – and creates a world in which characters and plots collide. Times are hard and Jack is hungry. So are Jack’s dads. But Jack’s plan to make money goes wildly wrong when King Rat comes along, and Jack is still trying to get to the bottom of what underwear is right when you’re non-binary. 7pm (and 1.30pm on 22 December). Ages 5+. Tickets £12, concs £8, family ticket £34.
21 Surrey Quays Road SE16 7AR; thealbany.org.uk
2 Aladdin, Hackney Empire
24 November-6 January
Hackney Empire’s landmark 20th anniversary Christmas pantomime, Aladdin, stars Olivier Award-winning Clive Rowe as Widow Twankey alongside Olivier Award-nominated EastEnders actor Tameka Empson. Written and directed by Susie McKenna, with original music by Steven Edis, the glittering show is packed with magical fun, song, dance, slapstick comedy and audience participation for all the family. In the Far East End, on the island kingdom of Ha Ka Ney, young Aladdin dreams of finding love and making his fortune. When he discovers an enchanted lamp and meets a mysterious genie, it looks like all his wishes are about to come true – can he win the hand of his Princess? There are even signed and dementia-friendly performances. Tickets £10-£38.
Hackney Empire, 291 Mare Street E8 1EJ; hackneyempire.co.uk
3 Robinson Crusoe, Greenwich Theatre
23 November-13 January
Robinson Crusoe is this year’s pantomime of choice at Greenwich Theatre, where Panto Royalty Andrew Pollard – who also writes and directs the annual sell-out show – will once again take to the stage after last year’s sabbatical. The action-packed adventure is awash with pirates, romance, exotic creatures and songs-a-plenty as Robinson Crusoe takes to the seas to find lost gold and battles a wicked Pirate Queen on the way. As always, this show is not just for the kids, offering plenty of laughs for grown ups too. Tickets £29, concs £20, kids £15.
Crooms Hill, Greenwich SE10 8ES; greenwichtheatre.org.uk
4 Rumpelstiltskin, Southbank Centre
13 December-6 January
This Christmas, the Southbank Centre will be staging an awe-inspiring retelling of the beloved fairytale Rumpelstiltskin in a performance set for the whole family in the Queen Elizabeth Hall. One of the classic tales collected by The Brother’s Grimm, the story follows the shape-shifting imp known for spinning straw into gold in a new contemporary reimagining full of spectacle, larger-than-life characters and good dose of humour. Australian singer and cabaret legend Paul Capsis takes on the leading role in the show premiering at the Southbank Centre this month.
Belvedere Road, South Bank SE1 8XX; southbankcentre.co.uk
5 Cinderella, Churchill Theatre Bromley
Birds of a Feather and Strictly Come Dancing star Lesley Joseph is leading the cast of Cinderella as the Fairy Godmother, sent to save Cinders from her evil Ugly Sisters and help her win the hand of Prince Charming, at Bromley’s Churchill Theatre. Delight in the classic rags-to-riches tale of young Cinderella in this all-singing and all-dancing adaptation full of magic, beautiful costumes and a fabulous orchestra. The pantomime will once again be produced by Qdos Entertainment, the team behind the record-breaking productions of Peter Pan starring Craig Revel Horwood and last year’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs with Jessie Wallace. Tickets from £21.50.
High Street, Bromley BR1 1HA; churchilltheatre.co.uk
6 The Snow Queen, Under the Bridge
Under the Bridge is to transform into a magical Christmas destination as it presents its first ever panto. Described as a fusion between Hans Christian Andersen’s famous fairy tale and the more contemporary Frozen, The Snow Queen tells the story of a young girl out to prove that friendship and the power of love can conquer all. The action-packed, fun-filled musical comedy has plenty of audience participation and interactive fun that’s ideal for children of all ages. The venue will also host an authentic Santa’s grotto, where children can meet Santa after the show. Shows run daily at 11am. Tickets from £10.
Stamford Bridge, Fulham Road SW6 1HS; underthebridge.co.uk
7 Dick Whittington, Lyric Hammersmith
17 November-6 January
Dick Whittington is the Lyric Hammersmith’s 10th anniversary pantomime. Expect the usual mix of live music, crazy characters, awesome adventure, singing, dancing, villainous baddies and heroic goodies with a little bit of feline flavour thrown in for good measure. Luke Latchman will play Dick Whittington, with Jodie Jacobs as Bow Belles and Keziah Joseph as Tom Cat. They will be joined by an ensemble of young performers, as part of the Lyric Hammersmith’s commitment to nurturing young talent. There will also be a 10 Year Celebratory Event on Friday 7 December, when audiences will watch a special panto performance full of guest appearances and a look back on 10 years of pantomime at the Lyric (tickets £30). Look out for the Free First Night on Saturday 17 November. Tickets £15-£42 (previews from £10).
Lyric Square, King Street, Hammersmith W6 0QL; lyric.co.uk
8 Pinocchio, The Albany Theatre
Nearly There Yet, in association with Proteus, presents a new adaptation of Carlo Collodis’ Pinocchio with an immersive soundscape, tactile performance and diverse company. Faced by a stint in the circus with a performing donkey, a colossal whale and an anglerfish blues band, Pinocchio takes you on a hilarious adventure bubbling with music, magic, captivating circus skills and puppetry. Follow Pinocchio, played by female lead Floria da Silvia, as he springs to life at the hands of Umar Butt as Geppetto and is led astray by the sly Fox and a crafty Cat. Ages 3+. Tickets from £12, family ticket £34, groups of 10 or more £8 each.
Douglas Way, Deptford SE8 4AG; thealbany.org.uk
9 Aladdin, The Broadway Theatre
Cbeebies favourite Joanna Adeyinka-Burford stars as Princess Blossom in Aladdin at The Boradway Theatre, alongside local funny man Wayne Rollins as Abanazar, Melissa Nettleford as the Spirit of the Ring and Samuel Freeman as Wishy Washy. Selladoor, whose most recent UK tours include Flashdance The Musical, Fame The Musical, Madagascar The Musical and Footloose, will be bringing this year’s panto to life, which will celebrate all things south east London! Previous panto greats to tread the boards in Catford include Keith Chegwin, Lenny Henry, Shane Ritchie and Lulu. Tickets £15.
Rushey Green, Catford SE6 4TU; broadwaytheatre.org.uk
10 Sleeping Beauty, Lantern Arts Centre
A beautiful baby princess with fairies to bless her… what could possibly go wrong? The Lantern Arts Centre in Raynes Park presents a new pantomime based on the famous fairytale Sleeping Beauty. Written and directed by Susie Pottinger, the pantomime promises to be a fun-filled show for all ages, bursting with music, laughter, dancing and panto shenanigans, as well as popular songs such as Footloose, Celebration and Dolly Parton’s 9-5. The Lantern Arts Centre has a rich history of producing fantastic pantomimes at family-friendly prices. Previous productions include Babes in the Wood, Aladdin, Cinderella and Snow White. Tickets £14/£12. Performances at 7.30pm (Saturday matinee 2.30pm).
Tolverne Road, Raynes Park SW20 8RA; lanternarts.org