London’s Best Family-Friendly Christmas Shows

Phillipa Ellis
By Phillipa Ellis Last edited 23 months ago
London’s Best Family-Friendly Christmas Shows

It’s the time of year that London is awash with seasonal theatre. Here’s our pick of London's best family-friendly productions, from the uber popular to the less traditional.

The Firework-Maker's Daughter

The Firework-Maker's Daughter. Photo by Robert Workman

Based on a Philip Pullman novel and starting life as a school play, The Firework-Maker's Daughter has already been on an incredible journey before landing at London’s Royal Opera House this Christmas. Using a combination of puppets and live projection inspired by Indonesian shadow puppetry, the story follows the adventures of Lila as she tries to fulfil her ambition of becoming a firework-maker like her father. Beyond the opportunity to experience this incredible venue, families can also enjoy a behind-the-scenes talk and demo where lucky volunteers might be needed to face the tiger, peer into Razvani's cave or dance with their own shadow. Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House, WC2E 9DD, suitable for children 6+, tickets £8-£26, 10 December-2 January (Insight event 19 December)

The Tinderbox

Loosen the grip that Disney's Frozen might have on your household by introducing the kids to another Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. Devised with younger audiences in mind, The Tinderbox introduces Brian the Brave, a penniless solider who acquires a magic tinderbox and embarks on a quest to find his true love. This musical adventure includes all the essential ingredients of a family-friendly production; an enchanting story delivered with comedy, colourful characters and bags of audience interaction, all wrapped up in one of central London's more intimate theatres, adding to the cosy Christmas feel.
Charing Cross Theatre, The Arches, Villiers Street, WC2N 6NL, suitable for children 3+, ickets £19.50 (family ticket £60), 12 December-2 January

Dick Whittington

Wilton's Panto is Dick Whittington. Photo by Steve Ullathorne

Pantomime is the ultimate seasonal family theatre, yet with every corner of London soon to be bursting at the seams with productions, it's going to take something special to stand out from the crowd. Enter veteran comedian, actor, writer, director and pantomime aficionado Roy Hudd, starring in the first-ever traditional family pantomime at Europe's oldest surviving grand music hall. Throw in a story with its roots firmly placed in the City of London and it's sure to be unmissable viewing for families. Dick Whittington at Wilton's promises so much more than dames, baddies, romance and danger; it’s a rare treat for kids to experience first-rate theatre in this east London gem, while you warm your cockles with mulled wine and a mince pie.
Wilton's Music Hall, Graces Alley, E1 8JB, suitable for all ages, tickets £15-£26, 1 December-31 December

Time Run

If you've got older children with video games featuring high on their Christmas wish-list, why not go one better and give them a chance to actually be part of a live game? Hidden behind a seemingly unremarkable warehouse door in London Fields, time traveller Luna Fox has opened a portal into the past and feature, and families (up to five people) have the chance to be sent through the centuries on her quest. Instead of being a passive viewer, this unique, immersive theatrical experience throws you into the middle of the story, where for 60 minutes even you can play at being an action adventure hero. Talk about all your Christmases coming at once! 9-15 Helmsley Place, London Fields, E8 3SB, suitable for children 10+, tickets £24-£29, until 31 January

Little Match Girl

Little Match Girl at Sadler's Wells.

The unwavering popularity of The Snowman has taught us that a Christmas story doesn't have to have a happy ending to capture the hearts and minds of families. Following a sell-out season last year, this magical dance production returns to Sadler’s Wells, with an atmospheric set and an original score, telling the poignant tale of a young street girl and her bid to leave behind her troubled life. Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadler's Wells Theatre, Rosebery Ave, EC1R 4TN, suitable for children 5+, tickets £18 adults, £12 children, 12 December-3 January

Slava's Snow Show

Slava's Snowshow

The Southbank Centre brings world-class theatre to families all year round, but with a programme packed full of seasonal performances it really comes into its own at Christmas. For the fifth year running, the award-winning Slava's Snow Show looks set to be a highlight. Inspired by the slapstick humour of artists such as Charlie Chaplain and Marcel Marceau, Slava Polunin leads a performance rich in clowning and silliness, along with a host of breathtaking visual effects. Combine this with a pootle around the riverside winter market (and if you’re lucky, a quick stop in this year’s pop-up cider lodge), and you have the makings of a perfect Christmassy day out. Southbank Centre, Belvedere Rd, SE1 8XX, suitable for children 8+, children under 3 not admitted, tickets £20-£70, 16 December-3 January

The Snow Child

The Snow Child at the Unicorn Theatre.

With so many family Christmas productions inspired by well-known stories, you can always rely on The Unicorn Theatre, London's premier children's theatre, to conjure up something original. This beautiful and inventive show by award-winning company Dancing Brick captures the magic that ensues when a couple desperate for a child of their own sculpt a daughter out of snow. Featuring live music, puppetry and even a giant on-stage ball pit, it promises to transport every visiting family to a fun-filled wintry world. Unicorn Theatre, 147 Tooley St, SE1 2HZ, suitable for children 3+, tickets £18 adults, £12 children, 18 November-3 January  

12 Days of Christmas

12 Days of Christmas at Chickenshed Theatre.

If you're looking for a family production that celebrates individuality and freedom of expression, look no further than Chickenshed's brilliant re-invention of this well-loved Christmas song. This energetic modern-day adaptation follows four brave children who flee their mean step family to follow a mysterious partridge on a quest for five gold rings, and the larger-than-life characters that they meet along the way. Alongside this colourful creation, the theatre group is also performing Christmas Tales for the very young (under 6) at their HQ, as well as other venues in Enfield, and Kensington and Chelsea. Rayne Theatre (Chickenshed Theatre), 290 Chase Side, Southgate, N14 4PE, suitable for children 5+, tickets £20-£11, 25 November-9 January

Last Updated 04 December 2015