We all have our own festive traditions, but at the heart of many Christmas routines is a trip to the theatre.
So many of our audience members comment on the important place that their family outing has in their annual plans – so integral to celebrations that tickets are often bought up to a year in advance.
Inevitably, the large-scale, big name shows often dominate with their huge marketing budgets, celebrity casts and enduring brands.
With Dawn French and Julian Clary back on stage for pantomime at the London Palladium and returning shows like The Snowman at the Peacock Theatre and Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty at Sadler’s Wells taking a major share of digital and print advertising, it is sometimes easy to miss out on some of the smaller Christmas shows happening this side of the river.
So, this is my pick of some of South London’s best Christmas theatre trips that audiences might not automatically hear about.
Two of the country’s leading theatre’s dedicated to family productions are preparing to celebrate in style – at the Unicorn Theatre at London Bridge, a cast of five actors are set to tell the story of Pinocchio, the tale of the puppet who wants to be a live boy but struggles with the truth, while over at Polka Theatre in Wimbledon, Crackers is billed as a festive family farce.
While the Cracker family are getting ready for the big festive day, their pet shop is going out of business, Great Gran is expecting a visit from Father Christmas and Napoleon the rat is on the loose.
In Deptford, the Albany presents The Tin Foil Astronaut, packed with music, puppets, science fiction and a few science facts, as Alba Dinkley heads for outer space in a home-made rocket.
Meanwhile, at Brixton House, a totally original take on Alice In Wonderland promises to be a seasonal highlight, with multi-award-winning company Poltergeist weaves rap music together with the sights and sounds of Brixton into a hundred-mile-an-hour Christmas adventure.
Without a rabbit-hole in sight, eleven-year-old Alice escapes an argument with her mum by leaping onto the Tube seconds before the doors hiss shut – but trapped on a train speeding into Nonsense, surrounded by weird and wonderful passengers, and at the mercy of a Queen who won’t relinquish the controls, can Alice turn this train around?
Over at Southwark Playhouse, making a bid to be the most original festive show, Who’s Holiday starring legendary US Drag superstar Miz Cracker sees Cindy Lou Who (the young girl who takes on the Grinch in the Dr Seuss tale) all grown-up and recalling that fateful festive year and all that followed.
At the Rose Theatre in Kingston, audiences can expect a refreshing, female-led production of A Christmas Carol by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm, writer of the Olivier Award-winning Emilia – while at The Globe on Bankside, where Emilia first set the stage alight, Christmas is marked with a re-imagining of Hans Christian Andersen’s festive fairy tale The Fir Tree.
Of course, here in Greenwich, we’ll be taking audiences deep into our very own forest – Sherwood, to be precise – for a pantomime take on Robin Hood.
Wherever you decide to go for your festive Christmas treat, be sure to catch some of the hidden gems dotted around South London.
You are sure to come across a winner that might just kick-start a whole new seasonal tradition for you and yours.
Picture: The Tin Foil Astronaut / Picture: Kitchen Zoo