After a couple of subdued seasons, London's panto scene flounces back onto the stage for 2022, camper and funnier than ever — oh yes it does! Here's our pick of the biggest and best pantomimes happening at London theatres this Christmas. Most are family friendly, but a handful are strictly for the big kids 😉
Mother Goose at Hackney Empire
Delighting London audiences for yonks, Mother Goose was created and first performed by music hall legend Dan Leno — and Hackney Empire celebrates its 120-year milestone with the great panto dame Clive Rowe in the lead role. We've a real soft spot for this theatre's annual show — partly because of an excellent send-up of Boris Johnson a few years back — and their retelling 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 best-known fairy tales told/pantos performed. Touted as the hippest panto in town, Lyric Hammersmith's combines golden eggs and bloodthirsty giants with skateboarding, and Beyonce choons. And judging from the promo pics, the colours are so dazzling, you'll need to wear sunnies.
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 revamp of Cinderella transports you to the Land of the Pharaohs, in a show that gleefully rips up the rulebook, giving us Cleopatra and Marc Anthony, rather than Widow Twanky and Buttons. Pharaoh-nough.
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 down with the west London massive, in a yarn that sees Prince Charming giving it one last shot at finding true love in Hounslow — otherwise he's upping sticks to Canada. There's bonus fun to be had with 'swap nights', where actors are allocated a different character to play at random — as well as 'prank nights', where they play dastardly tricks on on each other during the show — sounds like a riot.
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 is an apt panto hero — and no doubt the Offie Award-winning Greenwich Theatre Pantomime production team will make a good fist of Robin Hood, who is naturally joined by Maid Marion, Friar Tuck and other favourites from the English 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 2022 panto, Cracked, which, by the way is NOT one for the little 'uns. Expect to howl with laughter at this extremely naughty take on the fairy tale, from the people who brought us 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 promises "spectacular scenery and costumes, amazing special effects, hilarious jokes, toe tapping tunes and plenty of audience participation". And with favourites including Dan Whitley 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) join a cast which also features another Saturday TV legend, Matthew Kelly (in full dame getup), plus musical theatre stars Ruthie Henshall and Lee Mead. All in all, a shimmeringly 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 Richmond 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 of this Jack and the Beanstalk (Du Beke aside) is a show-stopping 3D giant — look forward to seeing this in action.
Jack and the Beanstalk at Churchill Theatre, Bromley. 4-31 December 2022.
Little Red Robin Hood at Battersea Arts Centre
As has become its thing — with the previous likes of Sleeping Beauty & the Beast, and Goldilocks & the Three Musketeers — Battersea Arts Centre is at the panto-mash ups again. Little Red Robin Hood takes us into a Bizarro World in which Red Riding Hood must defeat the evil Sheriff of Nottingham, save Robin Hood AND visit her grandma. Sounds quite the afternoon. 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
From the makers of Pilates in the Caribbean and Alice in Poundland comes the Wizard of Poz, an adult-only panto, which prides itself on having 'a filthy mouth and a big heart'. The timeless Judy Garland movie gets a tongue-in-cheek makeover, featuring characters like The Wicked Witch of West London and a Friend of Dorothy (Dorothy herself got Covid so can't make it).
The Wizard of Poz, Two Brewers, 7-22 December 2022.
Sinderfella at the Prince of Wales, Drury Lane
Drag artiste Luna Cortez has the starring role in Sinderfella, the Prince of Wales pub's double entendre-besmattered panto (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-swaying fromage: 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 bad boy Stuart Highway from EastEnders, although we'll always think of him as the car crash of a man that was Paul from Him & Her. Now, for Croydon's 2022 panto, Champ becomes the nefarious Captain Hook, in a show which also features a line-up of stars your kids will love: CBBC presenter Gemma Hunt, Crackerjack's Mark Rhodes and Channel 5 Milkshake! presenter David Ribi in the role of Peter Pan.
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
The Palladium's celeb-addled spectacular has plumped for Jack and the Beanstalk this year, with Louis Gaunt in the titular role (Jack that is, not the Beanstalk — that role goes to Julian Clary). West End regulars might recognise Gaunt from the recent stage version of Mary Poppins.
Elsewhere, the Palladium's festive stage show has snared Dawn French, Nigel Havers and Alexandra Burke to name a few. As you'd imagine, this show's hugely popular, and best availability is now in January. (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 capsule 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.
Mother Goose at Duke of York's Theatre
Acting royalty graces the stage at this West End panto, with none other than Ian McKellen dragging up for the titular role, while blockbuster comedian John Bishop playing the dame's husband, Vic. It starts (and finishes) later than most London pantos, as this is part of a sprawling UK tour lasting till April.
Mother Goose at Duke of York's Theatre, 15 December 2022-29 January 2023.
Potted Panto at The Apollo
Take in seven pantos for the price of one, as Potted Panto sweeps you through 70 hilarious minutes of Aladdin, Dick Whittington, Cinderella and others. Sounds like a tiring job for the cast, and with luck, it'll tire out your hyperactive kids too.
Potted Panto at The Apollo, 17 December 2022-18 January 2023.