London's theatres come into their own at Christmas, with festive spectaculars, heartwarming musicals and enchanting ballets. We've selected some of our favourite shows in London this Christmas. Looking for something to take the kids to? We've covered family-friendly Christmas shows too — and of course, there's panto aplenty.
1. A Christmas Carol at The Old Vic
Dickens classic A Christmas Carol needs no introduction, and The Old Vic's production isn't the only version of it knocking around this Christmas (see below). But given it's been adapted for the stage by Jack Thorne — the playwright responsible for adapting Harry Potter and the Cursed Child — and stars Stephen Mangan as Ebenezer Scrooge, we have high hopes for this one.
A Christmas Carol at The Old Vic, 13 November 2021-8 January 2022. Age 8+. Audio described performance on 10 December, captioned performance on 13 December, relaxed performance on 11 December.
2. La Clique at Christmas in Leicester Square
Christmas in Leicester Square returns, albeit scaled back from previous years. Most importantly, the spiegeltent is back in action, meaning La Clique takes up residence here over the festive season. Expect an enthralling blend of circus, comedy and cabaret performers — accompanied by house band, La Clique Palais Orkestra.
La Clique at Christmas in Leicester Square, 13 November 2021-8 January 2022. Age 16+.
3. The Nutcracker at Royal Opera House
Ease yourself into the festive season with Royal Opera House's production of The Nutcracker. It's far from the only adaptation pirouetting into town at this time of year, but this classic interpretation of Tchaikovsky's work comes from renowned choreographer Peter Wright, and is performed by the Royal Ballet. In short: they know what they're doing.
The Nutcracker at Royal Opera House, 23 November 2021-8 January 2022. Age 5+.
4. The Child in the Snow at Wilton's Music Hall
Things take a bit of a dark twist at Wilton's Music Hall's festive production this year. The Child in the Snow is a retelling of Elizabeth Gaskell's The Old Nurse's Story, a ghostly yarn featuring a child who was lured outside into the snowy moors by a girl at the library window, resulting in a family secret being revealed. Panto this ain't.
The Child in the Snow at Wilton's Music Hall, 26 November-31 December 2021. Signed performance on 8 December.
5. A Christmas Carol - A Ghost Story at Alexandra Palace
Mark Gatiss of Inside No. 9 fame stars in Alexandra Palace's production of A Christmas Carol, which was originally due to run last Christmas. He plays Jacob Marley, with the audience transported back to Victorian London by the use of special effects. Nicholas Farrell is Ebenezer Scrooge, who, as we all know, is visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve, and forced into changing his miserly ways.
A Christmas Carol - A Ghost Story at Alexandra Palace, 26 November 2021-9 January 2022.
6. A Christmas Carol at Greenwich Theatre
Much like buses, productions of A Christmas Carol don't tend to show up one at a time. But Greenwich Theatre is doing things a bit differently, having actor John O'Connor step into the role of Dickens himself. The author performed his festive classic over 150 times during his own lifetime, so this production offers a chance to experience A Christmas Carol as Dickens intended.
A Christmas Carol at Greenwich Theatre. 6-13 December 2021.
7. Matthew Bourne's Nutcracker at Sadler's Wells
The second Nutcracker of the season clamps down at Sadler's Wells, but this isn't your traditional tale. Choreographer Matthew Bourne takes Tchaikovsky's score, throws in dazzling costumes and detailed sets for a fresh and darkly comic interpretation of the story of Clara and her toys. We're also promised a few new surprises in this year's production.
Matthew Bourne's Nutcracker at Sadler's Wells, 7 December 2021-30 January 2022. Relaxed performance 9 January, audio described performance 15 January.
8. The Tiger Lillies' Christmas Carol at Southbank Centre
Far from being the atmospheric Dickensian tale with a happy ending that we're all used to, post-punk trio The Tiger Lillies focus their production of A Christmas Carol on the poverty and depravity of Victorian London's streets. Expect a blend of pre-war Berlin cabaret, anarchic opera and gypsy music, as they navigate moments of deep sadness, cruel black humour and immense beauty. Safe to say that Kermit the Frog doesn't make an appearance.
The Tiger Lillies' Christmas Carol at Southbank Centre, 14-30 December 2021. Age 14+. Captioned performance on 22 December.
9. Circus 1903 at Southbank Centre
Dressed up as a turn-of-the-century production, Circus 1903 conjures the golden age of circus, with jugglers, contortionists, trapeze artists and even elephants — without using real animals. The puppeteers behind War Horse create life-sized versions of the creatures to cavort on stage with the human performers. It's not Circus 1903's first rodeo, but some acts are new for this year.
Circus 1903 at Southbank Centre, 16 December 2021-2 January 2022.
10. The Nutcracker at London Coliseum
The English National Ballet is back with its annual rendition of The Nutcracker, an excellent introduction to the world of ballet if you've never been before. Clara, her Nutcracker doll, the Mouse King and dancers from the puppet theatre are all present and correct, with a cast of over 100, a sparkling festive backdrop, and Tchaikovsky’s timeless score.
The Nutcracker at London Coliseum, 16 December 2021-8 January 2022.
11. The Nutcracker at Royal Albert Hall
By the new year, London's nuts should be well and truly cracked judging by the number of Nutcrackers in town. The Royal Albert Hall's production, starring the Birmingham Royal Ballet, has been a regular festive feature for several years now. It's simple but effective with stunning period costumes, classic choreography, and dazzling projections to really bring that toy box to life. Best of all, it takes place in that stretch of downtime between Christmas and New Year, offering a great way to break up the lost week.
The Nutcracker at Royal Albert Hall, 28-31 December 2021.