The Square Mile is full of theatres laying on performances of classic pantomimes and shows, portraying old fairy tales in new and modern ways. Here are some of our favourites.
Christmas markets were cancelled. Most of the pop-up chalets, winter forests and igloos have been bumped till next year. Even our precious ice rinks never saw the light of day. But thank the gods for the arts industry which is saving Christmas – one festive pantomime, ballet performance and play at a time.
New guidelines mean that theatres can reopen, allowing them to host some socially distanced Christmas shows for us culture starved Londoners. And we can’t wait to take part in this brilliant tradition again. Bring us our Nutcrackers, Scrooges and Match Girls.
We want to feel that festive spirit again – as we drag ourselves through a cold and dark winter, separated from all our friends and family. Here are some of the very best Christmas shows going ahead this year. Just be sure to book tickets early, as they are going to go fast! Then, once you’ve been guaranteed seats, you can just dream of all the mulled wine and mince pies you’ll be feasting on during interval.
Some traditions never grow old. Just like the annual Nutcracker performances by the English National Ballet. This is always one of the best Christmas performances in London, as some of the world’s best dancers get all festive for us. And this year is a little different as they perform a special 75-minute version of the festive classic.
The Company will perform a selection of the ballet’s most popular moments and iconic scenes, from Snowflakes and hot air balloon rides to the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, accompanied by Tchaikovsky’s famous score played live by musicians from English National Ballet Philharmonic.
17 December – 3 January
London Coliseum, St Martin’s Lane WC2N 4ES
Join Dick Whittington and friends on an adventure to save the true spirit of London as pantomime comes to the National Theatre for one year only. In a newly transformed Olivier theatre, Ned Bennett directs this wild new version of the classic tale which has been freshly updated for 2020 by Jude Christian and Cariad Lloyd.
This hilarious and heartfelt panto is packed with the cheekiest of jokes, the chattiest of animals, the awesomest of songs and the messiest of silliness. Initial casting includes Dickie Beau, Amy Booth-Steel, Lawrence Hodgson-Mullings, Georgina Onuorah, and Cleve September. In a season when many UK theatres have been forced to postpone their pantomimes, help us to celebrate its place at the heart of British theatre.
11 December to 23 January
National Theatre SE1 9PX
The Little Match Girl
The Little Match Girl, directed and choreographed by award-winning Arthur Pita, is returning to the one and only Sadler’s Wells this Christmas, following five hugely successful festive seasons at the Lilian Baylis Studio. This year, The Little Match Girl will be staged on Sadler’s Wells main stage to allow social distancing for audiences to take place. The production will run across the Christmas season with 16 performances from Thursday 17 to Sunday 27 December.
Based on Hans Christian Andersen’s classic story, The Little Match Girl presents a timeless fable about kindness and helping others. This tale of a young street girl’s hopes and dreams is told through dance, song and Frank Moon’s original atmospheric music performed live on stage.
A snowy stage sets the scene for an icy cold Christmas Eve in an imaginary Italian town, where an impoverished little match girl wanders the ever-darkening streets with just one final match to keep her warm. Homeless and hungry, she sees a vision of her beloved grandmother who guides her up into the night sky and takes her to the moon. Now, on a clear night, if you look closely, you might see the light of a shooting star, or is it a match burning brightly?
Sadler’s Wells, Rosebery Avenue EC1R 4TN
Barbican Christmas Concerts
Barbican Hall will once again be full of Christmas cheer guys, as they host a huge series of festively themed concerts. And even though in-person visitors will be heavily reduced, the concerts will be streamed online so none of us have to miss out on all the fun.
It all kicks off on 13 December as the London Symphony Orchestra’s annual Christmas Concert goes online for free. Led by LSO Choral Director Simon Halsey, featuring well-known carols and seasonal songs ‘Sleigh Ride’, ‘Hark! The Herald Angels Sing’ and ‘The First Nowell’, alongside some yuletide discoveries from around the world. Filmed at LSO St Luke’s with guest singers Abigail Kelly soprano and Rodney Earl Clarke bass-baritone, with London Symphony Chorus and London Symphony Orchestra. The concert is available online for 90 days.
Next up is A Choral Christmas with Jess Gillam and Katie Melua on December 15. Saxophonist Jess Gillam hosts and performs in an evening of festive music for a live and digital audience. She is joined by singer-songwriter Katie Melua, as well as the BBC Singers conducted by Principal Guest Conductor Bob Chilcott, and members of the BBC.
Tuesday 22 December sees A Dickensian Christmas come to Barbican Hall. Kevin Whately joins the London City Brass conducted by Hilary Davan Wetton for a festive evening for all the family. Whately will bring to life a selection of readings from Charles Dickens’ festive fixture, A Christmas Carol, which will be accompanied by a programme of classic Victorian carols for choir and brass, including Deck the Hall, Ding Dong Merrily on High and Sussex Carol, In the Bleak Midwinter and The Holly and the Ivy.
Barbican Hall Silk Street EC2Y 8DS
A Christmas Carol
Charles Dickens practically invented Christmas as we know it today with this famous story which has been retold over and over again. It’s also scary, joyful, spooky, hilarious, furious, beautiful, and a triumphant declaration that even the hardest heart can melt.
Three outstanding actors – Simon Russell Beale, Patsy Ferran and Eben Figueiredo – come together to tell the story and play all the parts. The show will be suitable for all ages and runs 90 minutes without interval. Performances are from 3 December 2020 to 16 January 2021 with evenings at 7pm and matinees at 4pm (on 24 December the matinee will be at 2pm).
3 December – 16 January
Bridge Theatre, 3 Potters Fields Park SE1 2SG