After a couple of subdued years, London's panto scene is flouncing back for 2022 camper and funnier than ever — oh yes it is! Here's our pick of the biggest pantomimes happening at London theatres this Christmas.
Mother Goose at Hackney Empire
Delighting London audiences for 120 years, Mother Goose was created and first performed by music hall legend Dan Leno — and Hackney Empire celebrates the milestone by putting the great Clive Rowe in the lead role. We've a real soft spot for this theatre's annual panto (partly because they did an excellent send-up of Boris Johnson a few years back), and their telling of the story of a golden egg-laying a goose is sure to crack you up.
Mother Goose at Hackney Empire, 19 November-31 December 2022. Relaxed and dementia-friendly performance on 3 December, signed performances on 3 and 15 December.
Jack and the Beanstalk at Lyric Hammersmith
Leah St Luce takes on the lead role of Jack, who trades in Daisy the cow for some magic beans, and plants the seeds for one of the most famous fairy tales told/pantos performed. One of the hippest pantos in town, Lyric Hammersmith's combines golden eggs and bloodthirsty giants with skateboarding, and Beyonce choons.
Jack and the Beanstalk, 19 November 2022-7 January 2023. Age 6+. Relaxed performance 6 December, audio described performance 17 December, open captioned performance 21 December.
Cinderella at Stratford East
Put all those Disneyfied thoughts out of your head: Stratford East's version of Cinderella transports you to the Land of the Pharaohs, in a show that gleefully rips up the rulebook, and gives us Cleopatra and Marc Anthony, rather than the usual Widow Twanky and Buttons.
Cinderalla at Stratford East, 19 November 2022-17 January 2023. BSL-interpreted performance 10 December, captioned performance 16 December, audio-described performance 22 December, relaxed performance 30 December.
Cinderella at The Arts Centre, Hounslow
Cinderella gets a local twist, with Prince Charming giving it one last go to find true love in Hounslow — otherwise he's upping sticks and moving to Canada. The cast is having even more fun, with 'swap nights', where they are allocated a different character to play at random, and pranks nights, where they play tricks on on each other during the show.
Cinderella at The Arts Centre, Hounslow, 23 November-30 December 2022. Relaxed performance 20 December.
Robin Hood at Greenwich Theatre
Given the current economic climate, a fella who nabs from the rich to give to the poor seems fully apt — and no doubt the Offie Award-winning Greenwich Theatre Pantomime production team will make a good fist of Robin Hood, who is joined by Maid Marion, Friar Tuck and other favourites from the timeless folktale.
Robin Hood at Greenwich Theatre, 24 November 2022-8 January 2028. Relaxed performance 5 January.
Cracked at The Royal Vauxhall Tavern
Snow White... with extra bite is the mantra of the RVT's annual panto, Cracked, which, by the way is NOT one for the little 'uns. Expect to howl with laughter at the naughty take on the fairy tale, from the people who previously created Slipped, Rubbed, Goosed and last year's Offie nominated Pricked.
Cracked at The Royal Vauxhall Tavern, 25 November-6 January.
Snow White at The Broadway, Barking
The fairest panto of them all? After all, The Broadway is promising "spectacular scenery and costumes, amazing special effects, hilarious jokes, toe tapping tunes and plenty of audience participation". And with favourites including Dan Whitely as Muddles and Louise Kempson as Queen Morgana, it's set to be a hoot.
Snow White at The Broadway, Barking, 1 December 2022-1 January 2023. Relaxed performance 16 December, signed performance 17 December.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at New Wimbledon Theatre
Another Snow White! And this one will no doubt appeal to Saturday morning TV viewers of a certain vintage — as mischievous duo Dick and Dom (of Da Bungalow fame) are part of the cast, as is another Saturday TV legend Matthew Kelly (in full dame getup), as well as X Factor's Ruthie Henshall and musical theatre star Lee Mead. All in all, an impressively star-studded line-up.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at New Wimbledon Theatre, 3-31 December 2022.
Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Richmond Theatre
Roll up, roll up! The (originally very grisly) story of three avaricious bears is transposed to a circus setting for this panto outing, with TV's Matt Baker playing Joey the Clown among a cast that also stars impressionist Jessica Martin and panto dame Nigel Ellacott. Fingers crossed for some messy porridge setups.
Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Richmond Theatre, 3-31 December 2022.
Jack and the Beanstalk at Churchill Theatre, Bromley
Mr Strictly himself, Anton Du Beke, rolls back the years to play the boy wonder Jack, in Bromley's festive show. The USP (Du Beke aside) is a show-stopping 3D giant — which sounds like it'll delight/scare kids in equal measure.
Jack and the Beanstalk at Churchill Theatre, Bromley. 4-31 December 2022.
Little Red Robin Hood at Battersea Arts Centre
There are lots of pay what you can performances, but these are selling out fast.
Little Red Robin Hood at Battersea Arts Centre, 6 December 2022-8 January 2023.
The Wizard of Poz, Two Brewers
Sinderfella at the Prince of Wales, Drury Lane
Heads up for this one — The Prince of Wales isn't a theatre, but a pub, and Sinderfella isn't a family panto, but one just for the adults! Drag artiste Luna Cortez is in the starring role in this double entendre-laden show (although sometimes they skip the double entendre altogether, which is why there's a character called Prince Donkey Dick of Soho....). The script is filth, and the soundtrack is pure arm-waving cheese: think Never Going To Give You Up, It's Raining Men and I Will Survive.
Sinderfella at the Prince of Wales, Drury Lane, 9-22 December 2022.
The Further Adventures of Peter Pan – The Return of Captain Hook at Fairfield Halls
Many will know Ricky Champ as Stuart Highway from EastEnders, although we'll always think of him as the car crash of a man that was Paul from Him & Her. Anyway, now Champ is the nefarious Captain Hook, in Croydon's panto this year,
The Further Adventures of Peter Pan – The Return of Captain Hook at Fairfield Halls, 10-31 December 2022.
Jack and the Beanstalk at The Palladium
Anyone starting to notice a theme for this year's pantos? The celeb-addled spectacular has plumped for stone cold classic Jack and the Beanstalk, with Louis Gaunt in the titular role (Jack that is, not the Beanstalk). West End regulars will recognise him from the stage of Mary Poppins. As you'd imagine, this show's hugely popular, and best availability is now in January.
Elsewhere, the Palladium's festive number never fails to reel in the big names, and this year it's snared Dawn French, Julian Clary, Nigel Havers and Alexandra Burke to name a few. (Geeky trivia, if you go to the show, look out for this massive old cake in the Variety Bar).
Jack and the Beanstalk at The Palladium, 10 December 2022-15 January 2023
Christmas Panto Pod, London Eye
One of London's top attractions takes panto to new heights, with a very limited season of 'panto pods'. A family friendly production of Dick Whittington plays out at up to 443-feet in a pod dressed to the nines with velvet seats, spotlights, and an extremely intimate stage. Tickets, it should be said, are not cheap. Oh no they're not.
Christmas Panto Pod, London Eye, 14-18 December 2022.
Potted Panto at The Apollo