London clings on to Tier 2 this weekend, but that could all change for next weekend… So make the most of it and venture out cautiously (remind yourself of the rules here) to explore the best that London has to offer this Christmas
Lead image: Chelsea at Christmas © Cadogan
1 Chelsea at Christmas
Chelsea has transformed into a winter wonderland of Christmas lights, alfresco dining, live entertainment and a festive food market. Grab a bite to eat safely with over 500 additional outdoor seats across the area, complete with cover and heaters to protect you from the elements. On Duke of York Square, you can dine alfresco at Vardo, Manicomio and Polpo, while the newly pedestrianised Pavilion Road offers outdoor dining at Hans’ Bar & Grill, Wulf & Lamb, Granger & Co and The Sea, The Sea. Weekends in December will see roaming entertainment add to the atmosphere, with live music and festive performers. Complimentary horse and carriage rides will depart from outside Tiffany & Co on Sloane Street and Duke of York Square will host an outdoor festive food market every Saturday, full of seasonal delicacies and gifts from artisan traders, as well as a mulled punch tricycle from legendary Partridges. Chelsea’s Christmas lights have also returned, with even more magical displays across the entire neighbourhood.
2 Overflow with Travis Alabanza at Bush Theatre, Shepherd’s Bush
Overflow, a hilarious and devastating tour of women’s bathrooms by acclaimed writer and performer Travis Alabanza, will be the first public performance at the Bush following national restrictions. Cornered into a flooding toilet cubicle and determined not to be rescued again, Rosie distracts herself with memories of bathroom encounters, drunken heart-to-hearts by dirty sinks, friendships forged in front of crowded mirrors, and hiding from trouble. But with her panic rising and no help on its way, can she keep her head above water? From internationally acclaimed writer and one of the UK’s most prominent trans voices, Travis Alabanza, comes a hilarious and devastating tour of women’s bathrooms. Directed by Debbie Hannan, Overflow is a monologue and will be presented in line with government guidelines and with social distancing measures in place. Tickets from £20 (concs available).
7 Uxbridge Road, Shepherd’s Bush W12 8LJ; bushtheatre.co.uk
3 Unearthed: Photography’s Roots at Dulwich Picture Gallery
8 Dec-29 May 2021
Dulwich Picture Gallery was due to re-open in November with a major new exhibition exploring the history of photography from the 1840s to today, but due to obvious reasons, the gallery’s reopening was delayed until December. DPG’s first major photography exhibition, Unearthed traces the rich history of the medium through depictions of nature, with over 100 works by 41 leading international artists. As well as revealing the fascinating technical processes and narratives behind these images, the exhibition will showcase innovations in photography by key figures like William Henry Fox Talbot, Imogen Cunningham and the English gardener, Charles Jones. Jones’ striking modernist photographs of plants remained unknown for 20 years after his death, until they were discovered in a trunk at Bermondsey Market in 1981. Adults £16.50, under 18s free. There’s also a special Friends Preview Weekend on 5-6 December.
Gallery Road, Dulwich Village SE21 7AD; dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk
4 The Love Wimbledon Reindeer Trail
Until 28 December
Follow the #WimbledonReindeerTrail and enjoy nine different augmented reality experiences. Nine vibrant and colourful reindeer – including Rudolf – have graced the streets of Wimbledon for a free hide-and-seek-style experience for the local community. Find Father Christmas’ reindeer and be transported to a virtual Winter Wonderland through your mobile with the latest augmented reality technology, delivered by Love Wimbledon in partnership with Centre Court Shopping. To play, download the Locale AR app, make sure your location services, camera and data are turned on, scan the QR code at each reindeer in Wimbledon Town Centre, enjoy a VR experience and see if you can spot Santa! You can even frame your friends and family in the photo and share on social media or create your own Christmas card. Plus, don’t miss the Love Wimbledon Christmas Markets running every weekend up to Christmas.
5 The Great Gatsby, Mayfair
9 Dec-28 Feb 2021
The Great Gatsby – London’s longest running immersive theatrical production – returns this month, re-imagined and re-set to meet Covid-19 secure guidelines. Jay Gatsby invites you to his mansion for one of his infamous parties – the hottest invite in town with flowing champagne, bootleg liquor and pure Roaring Twenties hedonism. And you don’t just watch the action, you become the action, as Gatsby and his associates lead you off into secret chambers and pull you into his murky ‘business’ dealings… Don your masquerade, dress to the nines and immerse yourself in this heart-racing adaption of F Scott Fitzgerald’s seminal tale of jazz-age self-indulgence. Directed by Alexander Wright. Tickets from £39.95pp.
56 Davies Street, Mayfair W1K 5HR; immersivegatsby.com
The Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich is hosting a riverside arts and crafts market and Christmas carol services this December. The market runs from 12-13 and 18-20 December (11am-8pm Saturdays, 12pm-5pm Sundays and 12-6pm on Friday 18th), will gift ideas from local makers, mulled wine and food stalls. This year’s Carol concert, recorded in the Chapel of St Peter and St Paul, will be streamed online from 6pm on 13 December, and then available to watch at your leisure thereafter, and can also be viewed in person, screened in the Chapel on 13 December for free (book here). Next weekend (18-20 December), you can also enjoy a brand-new pop-up musical – The Little Match Girl – performed in the ORNC grounds.
King William Walk, Greenwich Peninsula SE10 9NN; ornc.org
7 CROOKS 1926, Elephant & Castle
From 10 December
Due to popular demand after its initial return in August, CROOKS 1926 – the first immersive experience to re-open in London after lockdown – will now extend into 2021. The producers are planning to reopen on Thursday 10 December with twice weekly shows until 19 December, and then again from 15 January 2021 through February, returning to a full Weds-Sun performance schedule from 3 March. CROOKS 1926 is an immersive experience where the audience has complete autonomy to shape their own adventure. Plunge deep into the cockney criminal underworld of Elephant and Castle as you are immersed in one family’s brutal battle for supremacy. Nothing is certain, violence is rampant, and bargains are made to be broken. Fix a horse-race, hire thugs and plan the grand territorial takeover of London. But keep an open ear and a sharp mind for not all is as it seems… Dress to impress in your best 1920s gear.
King William IV, 6 Harper Road, Elephant & Castle SE1 6AD; colabtheatre.co.uk
8 The Murdér Express, Bethnal Green
10 Dec-24 Jan
The Murdér Express, an immersive theatre and dining experience based in east London, transports passengers back in time to the grandeur of the (pre-Covid) 19th century. Set onboard a glamorous train carriage, reminiscent of the Orient Express, The Murdér Express transports guests back in time to the grandeur of the 19th century. Travelling by train for pleasure is in its infancy, and you’ll join other excited passengers ‘travelling’ from London to the fictional town of Murdér in France. But first, we eat! Seated in the elegant dining car, passengers will dine on a menu designed by BBC One MasterChef 2017 finalist, Louisa Ellis, and as the train ‘departs’, the story unfolds around you. Of course, The Murdér Express has new Covid-secure measures in place, including temperature checks, Perspex screens and reduced capacity. Tickets from £65 plus a £3.90 booking fee per ticket.
Pedley Street ‘Station’, Arch 63, Pedley Street, Bethnal Green E1 5BW; funicularproductions.com
9 Lockdown Town, London Bridge
4 Dec-30 Jan
Immerse yourself in five musical worlds from 1950s rock ‘n’ roll to 1918 Ragtime in a maze of tunnels under the tracks near London Bridge station. Created for the age of social distancing, Lockdown Town offers five immersive gigs over two hours with limited spaces available so that you can dress up as your favourite decade, cut loose and enjoy live music accompanied by themed food and cocktails. According to Gigwise, ‘You’ll find gems you’ve never heard before and also see and hear the hits and legends of the future”’, while Music News says the experience is ‘propelled by some of Britain’s most ground-breaking and exciting underground food pioneers’. Running Weds to Sat till 30 January. Tickets £30 during the week, £52 at weekends.
Wardens Grove, London Bridge SE1 0HT; onenightrecords.com
10 Philip Colbert: Lobsteropolis at Saatchi Gallery, Chelsea
9 Dec-17 Jan
Lobsteropolis at Saatchi Gallery, presented by Unit London, was designed to present the modern pop world of Philip Colbert in a ‘lockdown proof’ manner. Good news for us! View the exhibition via robots that allow you to interactively engage with the exhibition. Take a digital tour of the psychedelic lobster land by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org to book a slot with your own automated machine, which enables you to move around the gallery via your smartphone or computer. Lobsteropolis, the largest UK survey to date of Colbert’s universe, promises to transport visitors through an odyssey of unseen large-scale paintings and sculptures, which interrogate mass consumerism and reference recent contemporary culture and history.
11 Dante’s In Furlough at The Vaults, Waterloo
10 Dec-31 Jan
The devil is getting hitched, and given the Covid chaos, there’s no better time to accept an invitation to the underworld… The bottom line of this socially distanced interactive show – inspired by Shel Silberstein’s epic poem, Billy Markham and the Devil, written for PlayBoy in 1977 – is betray or be betrayed. Travel down into the many circles of Hell and navigate your way to the wedding of the millennium. But to prove yourself worthy of a seat at Devil’s table, you’ll need to lie, sin and cheat your way there. Should your morals interfere, your punishment will be to return to the altogether more disappointing plains of Earth and miss out on all the hedonism down below. Covid-secure measures include a limit of six attendees at a time, with ample space to stand two-metres away from those not in your bubble. Face coverings are mandatory. Tickets from £20 (previews), drinks tokens £6. Open Thurs-Sat 5.30pm-8.30pm and Sun 4.30pm-7.30pm.
The Vaults, Leake Street, Waterloo SE1 7NN; thevaults.london
12 The Comeback at Noel Coward Theatre, West End
8 Dec-3 Jan
The Comeback, a brilliantly original and hilarious new comedy, is due to open at the Noel Coward Theatre this month. The debut play from The Pin’s award-winning Ben Ashenden and Alex Owen tells the story of two double acts in a desperate battle for the limelight. Up-and-coming comics Alex and Ben have been booked in the warm-up spot for a fading double act’s comeback tour. Neither duo are delighted to be playing to a sparse crowd in a sleepy, seaside town, but when it’s revealed that a Hollywood director is in the audience, both acts glimpse a final chance for their big break. Cue sabotage, mistaken identity and full on farcical mayhem in a warm-hearted, joyful, and dazzlingly funny new comedy. Each night Ashenden and Owen will be joined on stage by a surprise celebrity guest star playing a cameo role in the production. Tickets from £10.
13 The Play That Goes Wrong at Duchess Theatre, West End
10 Dec-2 May 2021
The Play That Goes Wrong, the box office hit created by Mischief Theatre with Las Vegas legends Penn & Teller, returns to the Duchess Theatre from 10 December. The production follows a bunch of accident-prone thespians, The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society, attempting to make it through a classic whodunnit play. There’s been a murder at a country manor and an inspector is set on the case to find who the culprit is, but the play doesn’t go as rehearsed, and as the actors and crew battle against all odds to make it through to their final curtain call, you’ll be left wondering if you’ll ever find out who murdered Charles Haversham… Tickets from £22.
14 The Ski Lodge at The Montague On The Gardens, Bloomsbury
Until 14 Feb 2021
The Ski Lodge at The Montague On The Gardens, decked out with pine trees, falling snow, reindeer, snowmen, ski racks and pretty fairy lights, is one of London’s top spots for a festive gathering. Not only was it London’s first ski lodge-style pop up bar, originally launched in 2011, it even won the Bronze award for Best Christmas Party Venue in The London Venue Awards 2019. And what’s a ski lodge without a little aprés-ski frivolity? Precisely. So you’ll be pleased to know that the bar serves a selection of Schnapps and flavoured vodkas, alongside other winter favourites like mulled wine and boozy hot chocolates. The alfresco pop up, located in the hotel’s courtyard, is covered and heated, with mulled wine, hot spiced cider, hot chocolate cocktails and big woolly rugs to help keep the chill at bay. Ski Passes are £38pp including an Alpine platter with mini bratwurst, turkey schnitzel and deep-fried Camembert), three seasonal drinks and access to The Ski Lodge for 90 minutes.
15 Montague Street, Bloomsbury WC1B 5BJ; montaguehotel.com
15 Queen’s House Ice Rink, Greenwich
Until 24 Jan
The ice rink at the Queen’s House in Greenwich, which made its debut last year, returns in 2020 to once more stake its claim as south London’s only outdoor ice rink. Set against the backdrop of a beautiful UNESCO World Heritage site, the ‘instagrammable’ ice rink will be even bigger this year – all the better for social distancing! New measures have been introduced this year in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, with hygiene standards ‘fit for royalty’ that include enhanced cleaning regimes, hand washing sanitations and staggered skate sessions to ensure there are fewer people on the ice at any one time. The Queen’s House ice rink offers the chance to skate in front of the ‘House of delight’, built especially for James I’s Queen, while also soaking up the beauty of Greenwich Park and the spectacular views across the river to Canary Wharf. Open 11am-8pm (last skate 7pm) on off-peak days and 10am-9pm (last skate 8pm) on peak days (peak dates are 12 Dec-3 Jan inclusive; super peak day is on 24 Dec). Skate hire is from £7.25 for kids and £14.50 for adults (u25s/student, £9).
Queen’s House, Greenwich SE10 9NF. For tickets see rmg.co.uk/skate