A cultural Christmas

The next few weeks don't have to be all about panto: from theatre and dance, to opera and comedy, Alice Jones picks the events to light up the season


Season's Greetings

Catherine Tate, Mark Gatiss, Katherine Parkinson and Neil Stuke head an all-star comic cast for a revival of Alan Ayckbourn's Christmas classic. National Theatre, London SE1 ( www.nationaltheatre.org.uk) to 13 Mar in rep.

Swallows and Amazons

The Bristol Old Vic is going great guns these days. This year's Christmas show, directed by Tom Morris (War Horse), is a new musical based on Arthur Ransome's lazy, hazy children's classic, with songs by the Divine Comedy's Neil Hannon. Bristol Old Vic ( www.bristololdvic.org.uk) to 15 Jan

A Flea in Her Ear

In what could be perfect casting, the always comical Tom Hollander (Rev; In the Loop) takes the lead in Feydeau's bed-hopping farce for a grown-up, if rather silly, take on the traditional Christmas show. Richard Eyre directs. Old Vic Theatre, London SE1 ( www.oldvictheatre.com) to 5 Mar

Peter Pan

Theresa Heskins's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was a triumph last year, so hopes are high for this year's Christmas show, which claims to go back to J M Barrie's dark original tale. New Vic, Newcastle-under-Lyme ( www.newvictheatre.org.uk) to 22 Jan

A Christmas Carol

Housed in the former office of Uzbekistan Airways, off London's Bond Street, Theatre Delicatessen is a vibrant new pop-up on the scene. In this two-floor promenade production of Dickens's classic, Scrooge becomes a tyrannical modern-day media mogul. Theatre Delicatessen, London W1 ( www.theatredelicatessen.co.uk) to 24 Dec


The RSC has assembled an unholy trinity of comic talent for this new musical, based on Roald Dahl's much-loved tale. Tim Minchin has written the music and lyrics, Dennis Kelly the book and Matthew Warchus directs. Paul Kaye (Dennis Pennis) stars as Matilda's father. Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon ( www.rsc.org.uk) to 30 Jan

Beasts and Beauties

No sugar plum fairies here; Carol Ann Duffy deals with the darker, occasionally gruesome side of fairy tales, from Bluebeard's castle to a badly trained beast. Melly Still adds her macabre touch as director. Hampstead Theatre, London NW3 ( www.hampstead theatre.com) to 31 Dec


Tron: Legacy

Nearly three decades on from the cult original, Disney presents the sequel to its video-game fantasy, with Jeff Bridges reprising his role as Kevin Flynn. Daft Punk provide the soundtrack for the lavish production, whose budget has been rumoured at a mind-boggling $300m (the original cost $17m). Released on 17 December


The word-of-mouth hit of this year's festival circuit, Catfish purports to be a documentary film about a friendship struck up between the director's brother and an 8-year-old girl (and her family) online. The real Facebook film – or is it? Released on 17 December


A return to form – and famous hotels – for Sofia Coppola with this stylish movie, winner of the Golden Lion at this year's Venice Film Festival. Johnny Marco is a jaded, faded Hollywood star (Stephen Dorff), wasting his life at LA's Chateau Marmont until his 11-year-old daughter (Elle Fanning) shows up and shows him the error of his ways – all to a super-cool soundtrack by Phoenix. Out now

The Tourist

Long-awaited is hardly the word for Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's follow-up to his understated international smash-hit The Lives of Others. Marking the young director's English-language debut, The Tourist stars Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp in a Venice-set crime thriller, whose twisty, tricksy screenplay comes courtesy of Julian Fellowes. Out now


Camper than Christmas and attempting to do a Moulin Rouge, this new musical stars Cher and Christina Aguilera in a heartwarming, small-town-girl-makes-it-big-in-burlesque tale. With plenty of belted-out anthems and feathers. Released on 17 December

Gulliver's Travels

Jack Black, Emily Blunt and Catherine Tate star in this 3D modern-day adventure from the team behind the box-office busting Night at the Museum franchise. Perfect post-turkey fare. Released on 26 December


Banksy's Marks and Stencils

Almost as traditional as turkey now, Banksy's pop-up gallery/shop is back in Soho for the festive period, with two floors of irreverent street art, prints and "home-made novelties" from artists including 3D, Dran and the man himself. 1 Berwick Street, London W1 ( www.picturesonwalls.com) to 22 Dec

Childish Things

It may look like a toyshop display, but this exhibition of Dadaist work from the 1980s and 90s is far from cute and cuddly. Jeff Koons, Louise Bourgeois and Paul McCarthy are among the artists offering a characteristically dark take on playthings and childhood. The Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh ( www.fruitmarket.co.uk) to 23 Jan


Here's a novel take on the "Secret Santa" phenomenon. Artists are "gifted" a work by another artist and told to alter it in any way they wish before placing it back in the gallery setting. Matthew Musgrave, Vicky Wright and Nick Goss are among the participants. Josh Lilley Gallery, London W1 ( www.joshlilleygallery.com) to 7 Jan

British Art Show 7

Established names – Sarah Lucas, Wolfgang Tillmans – exhibit alongside up-and-coming talents such as Spartacus Chetwynd, Charles Avery and Karla Black in this vibrant survey. The highlight, though, is Christian Marclay's The Clock, recently seen at White Cube, a video work charting the passage of a day and a night in real time using archive film clips. Various venues, Nottingham, then touring ( www.british artshow.co.uk) to 9 Jan

Move: Choreographing You

The ideal show for working off the Christmas calories, Move brings together the visual arts and dance in a fresh and engaging way with works from William Forsythe, Bruce Nauman and Isaac Julien. Cross the gallery floor on gymnastic rings, balance on the tilting tables or grab a hula hoop and head for the rooftop. Hayward Gallery, London SE1 ( www.south bankcentre.co.uk) to 9 Jan

Anish Kapoor: Turning the World Upside Down

Wrap up warm and take a tour around Kensington Gardens, where four of Kapoor's mirror works have been installed. Come the inevitable frost and snow, they'll look even more beautiful and otherworldly. Kensington Gardens, London W8 ( www.serpentinegallery.org) to 13 Mar


The Nutcracker

The English National Ballet unveil a new Nutcracker, their first since the Gerald Scarfe-designed one in 2002. This time the company's artistic director, Wayne Eagling, is at the helm, promising a return to a traditional take on Tchaikovsky, and brand new tutus, glittering with Swarowski crystals. Coliseum, London WC2 ( www.ballet.org.uk) to 30 Dec

Les Patineurs/Tales of Beatrix Potter

No Nutcracker at Covent Garden this Christmas makes room for this charming double bill of Ashton ballets, performed by some of the Royal Ballet's best stars, including Steven McRae, Yuhui Choe and Sarah Lamb. Royal Opera House, London WC2 ( www.roh.org.uk) 20 Dec to 10 Jan in rep


Matthew Bourne's typically offbeat, yet lushly romantic version of the fairytale is set in London during the Blitz with handsome RAF pilots and a bombed-out Cafe de Paris. Sadler's Wells, London EC1 ( www.sadlers wells.com) to 23 Jan, then touring ( www.new-adventures.net) to 28 May


Winter Wassail

The Gabrieli Consort & Players present an entertaining New Year hour of music inspired by Shakespeare, Hardy and Chaucer, with readings from Globe actor Peter Hamilton Dyer. Mulled wine and piping hot food will be served in the interval to warm up the groundlings. Shakespeare's Globe, London SE1 ( www.shakespearesglobe.org) 1 to 3 Jan


An unusual choice for the season, perhaps, Wagner's rich and sensual opera finds its way back on to the bill at the Royal Opera House for the first time in 20 years. Semyon Bychkov conducts and world-class tenor Johan Botha sings the lead. Royal Opera House, London WC2 ( www.roh.org.uk) to 2 Jan in rep

Lady Gaga

Outlandish costumes, party hats and classic dancefloor fillers – what better way could there be to kick off the Christmas countdown than with 2010's triumphant Queen of Pop? 02 Arena, London SE10 ( www.ladygaga.com) 16 & 17 December

End of the Road Christmas shindig

Josh T Pearson, Esben and the Witch and Joe Gideon & the Shark are on the bill for the festival's seasonal bash. Music bingo, DJs and hot cider complete the package. Turn up early – the first 30 through the door are promised a Christmas present. Cargo, London EC2 ( www.endoftheroadfestival.com) 16 Dec

Peter and the Wolf: Live

Jarvis Cocker hosts an afternoon celebration of the children's classic, providing the narration while the Philharmonia Orchestra provide the music. There's also a screening of the 2008 Oscar-winning short film of the fairytale with poetry from Simon Armitage. Royal Festival Hall, London SE1 ( www.southbankcentre.co.uk) 29 & 30 Dec

Manic Street Preachers

Epic, throaty angst from the veteran Welsh rockers, who headline this year's XFM Winter Wonderland gig at Brixton Academy, alongside White Lies, The Drums and Two Door Cinema Club. Birmingham Academy, 14 Dec; Brixton Academy, London SW9, 15 Dec ( www.manicstreetpreachers.com)


OperaUpClose bring their intimate, modern take on Rossini to London's newest opera house, in the back room of the King's Head on Upper Street. Emma Rivlin directs. King's Head Theatre, London N1 (0844 477 1000) 21 Dec to 11 Feb in rep


Frisky and Mannish's Christmas Mess...age

The cult, and very glittery, pop parodists appear in the West End for one night only with their distinctive brand of comedy, cabaret and music. Impro-rappers Abandoman, Miles Jupp and the must-see new act of the year, The Boy with Tape on His Face, complete a fun-packed bill. Lyric, London W1 (0844 412 4661) 20 Dec

Christmas Freeze!

Rapidly rising comedy stars Tom Basden and Tim Key bring their double act back for a festive outing, including poetry, songs and maybe some yodelling. Invisible Dot, London NW1 ( www.theinvisibledot.com) 23 Dec

Lady Garden and Friends

Always a fun evening and an opportunity to see rising stars perform spots alongside more established names in an intimate pub venue. For Christmas the all-female sketch troupe will be joined by Pappy's, Ginger and Black and The Penny Dreadfuls, among others. Plus cake. The Wilmington Arms, London EC1R (www.thewilmington arms.co.uk) 20 Dec