The Christmas arts round-up: It's behind you!

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Or it will be if you don't book now for the best events of this festive season – from Pamela Anderson to Maurice Sendak, via indie rock-outs and old-school panto



Panto and family theatre



Jack and the Beanstalk Following the immigration comedy England People Very Nice, Richard Bean moves on to less controversial ground as one of four writers behind this modern-day take on the panto staple. Lyric Hammersmith (0871 22 117 29) to 9 Jan

Aladdin In this year's most wilfully crackpot panto line-up, Pamela Anderson shares the role of the Genie (see Flip Chart, page 7) with Ruby Wax and Paul O'Grady, while Brian Blessed lends booming support as the villainous Abanazar. New Wimbledon Theatre (0844 871 7646), Friday to 10 Jan

Hansel and Gretel Cornish experimental troupe Kneehigh bring their surreal sensibility to bear on the Grimm fairytale, with lively music, rough poetry and some rather unlucky rabbits. Bristol Old Vic (tel: 0117 987 7877), Friday to 23 Jan

Arabian Nights A hit at the Young Vic back in 1998, this bewitching retelling of seven of the legendary 1,001 stories is now rejigged for the RSC by original director Dominic Cooke. Courtyard Theatre, Stratford (0844 800 1110), Saturday to 30 Jan

Footsbarn's Christmas Cracker The Globe's first Christmas show will compensate for its al-fresco setting with a cockle-warming cavalcade of dance, puppetry, magic and Shakespeare, as well as plenty of mulled wine for the grown-ups. Globe Theatre, London (020 7401 9919), 22 Dec to 3 Jan

Adult theatre

Stewart Lee: If You Prefer a Milder Comedian, Please Ask for One Cutting a Scrooge-like swathe through all that festive fakery, the vitriolic Lee hits the road with his latest stand-up show, with targets including celebrity memoirs and Caffé Nero. Lowry, Salford (0870 787 5780) tonight, then touring

The Misanthrope Martin Crimp's contemporary revision of Molière's scathing comedy of manners, in which all eyes will be on Keira Knightley, trying to prove her stage chops as a spoilt American starlet, alongside Damian Lewis and Tara FitzGerald. Comedy Theatre, London (0844 871 7627), 7 Dec to 13 March

Blithe Spirit Corrie meets Coward as former soap queen Suranne Jones leads the cast in the revival of this supernatural farce about a novelist haunted by his first wife's petulant ghost. Royal Exchange, Manchester (0161 833 9833), 9 Dec to 23 Jan

Sandi Toksvig's Christmas Cracker Seasonal entertainment doesn't get more cosy than this old-school variety show compered by comedian Toksvig, and promising a turn from Ronnie Corbett and a romp through A Christmas Carol. Royal Festival Hall, London (0844 875 0073), 15 to 24 Dec

Twelfth Night Richard Wilson plays up to his curmudgeonly image as yellow-stockinged steward Malvolio in Greg Doran's entertaining RSC revival of the seasonal Shakespearean comedy. Duke of York's, London (0844 871 7627), 19 Dec to 27 Feb

Dance

The Nutcracker While the list of Christmas Nutcrackers gets longer every year, Peter Wright's lavishly traditional, 19-year-old Birmingham Royal Ballet staging remains at the top of the tree. Birmingham Hippodrome (0844 338 5000) to 13 Dec

Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake Rapidly becoming a festive standard, Bourne's all-male interpretation of Tchaikovsky returns to Sadler's Wells to provide its usual helping of befeathered sexiness. Sadler's Wells, London (0844 412 4300), 10 Dec to 24 Jan

Les Patineurs/Tales of Beatrix Potter A great choice for all ages, this Frederick Ashton double bill matches the merry dancing of Peter Rabbit and friends with the more sophisticated pas de deux of an Edwardian skating party. Royal Opera House, London (020 7304 4000), 14 Dec to 13 Jan

Classical

York Christmas Early Music Festival Viol consort Concordia, Vivaldi specialists La Serenissima, The Carnival Band and medievalists Joglaresa and The Dufay Collective make merry in the seasonal spin-off from York's summer festival Various venues (01904 658 338), Wednesday to 8 Dec

Othello Birmingham Opera Company takes over the Argyle Works in Smethwick for the latest of Graham Vick's community projects. Ronald Samm is Verdi's stricken soldier, with Keel Watson as Iago. Argyle Works, Birmingham (0844 477 1000), from Saturday

I Fagiolini's Christmas Party The innovative British ensemble teams up with Norway's Barokksolistene for Bach, Byrd, clocktower chimes and Spanish fizz. Kings Place, London (020 7520 1490) 16 and 19 Dec

Cargill sings Berlioz Karen Cargill joins the Scottish Chamber Orchestra for Berlioz's Le mort de Cléopâtre. Queen's Hall, Edinburgh (0131 668 2019), 17 Dec; City Halls, Glasgow (0141 353 8000), 18 Dec; and Music Hall, Aberdeen (01224 641 122), 19 Dec

A Spotless Rose The Gabrieli Consort makes its debut at The Sage, Gateshead, with a programme of Marian motets from Josquin, Mouton and Palestrina to Bax, Britten, Stravinsky and Thomas Adès. The Sage, Gateshead (0191 443 4661), 22 Dec Anna Picard

Rock and pop

Soul Noel A funkier alternative to the traditional carol concert, with Christmas standards such as "O Holy Night" and "White Christmas" re-interpreted in an African style, and appearances from South African opera diva Sibongile Khumalo and London soulster Ola Onabule. Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester (0161 907 5555), 7 Dec, then touring

XFM Winter Wonderland The indie radio station's annual shindigs, with the Cribs and Echo & the Bunnymen headlining in Manchester and posturing pretenders Razorlight leading the way in London. Academy, Manchester (0161 275 2930), 8 Dec; Brixton Academy, London (0844 477 2000), 16 Dec

A Not So Silent Night The Wainwright family, aka siblings Rufus and Martha and mum Kate McGarrigle, prove that they're as handsomely connected as they are irritatingly gifted with this starry Christmas show, featuring Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders, Boy George and Elbow's Guy Garvey. Royal Albert Hall, London (0845 401 5045), 9 Dec

The Pogues Expect sozzled singalongs and "Fairytale of New York" encores aplenty as Shane MacGowan and co return for the shambolic Christmas institution that is their annual reunion tour. 02 Academy, Newcastle (0844 477 2000), 9 Dec, then touring

Pet Shop Boys 'Christmas' EP For those turned off by the prospect of Bob Dylan's Christmas album, the synth-pop's duo five-track EP should still be a somewhat less surreal seasonal listen, featuring a new version of 1990s tune "It Doesn't Often Snow At Christmas" alongside surprisingly inspired covers of Madness and Coldplay. Out 14 Dec

Film

Where The Wild Things Are School holiday manna arrives in the form of this adaptation of Maurice Sendak's classic children's picture book, re-imagined for the big screen by the hiperati duo of director Spike Jonze and writer Dave Eggers. Out 11 Dec

Avatar Titanic ego James Cameron will be hoping to prove he is King of the World once more with his first proper feature film in 12 years, a 3-D sci-fi epic about a group of Earthling soldiers sent to colonise a mysterious planet inhabited by blue-skinned humanoids. Out 17 Dec

Nowhere Boy Former YBA Sam Taylor- Wood shows some serious film-making promise with this moving, surprisingly untricksy biopic about a young John Lennon – and featuring, as gossip followers will know, her 19-year-old fiancé Aaron Johnson in the lead role. Out 26 Dec

Prince Charles Cinema Christmas Double Bills The shabby Soho haunt builds up to the big day with two programmes of festively minded treats: on 22 December, catch the Nightmares Before Christmas that are Gremlins and Die Hard, while on Christmas Eve, you can opt for the more wholesome Home Alone and perennial favourite It's a Wonderful Life. Prince Charles Cinema, London (020 7494 3654)

Peter and the Wolf Live Suzie Templeton's Oscar-winning animated adaptation of Prokofiev's classic morality tale is given a live makeover, with the Philharmonia Orchestra performing the score and a specially commissioned script by poet Simon Armitage. Royal Festival Hall, London (0844 875 0073), 28-30 Dec

And a few stocking fillers

Christmas Past: 400 Years Of Seasonal Traditions In English Homes East London's Geffrye interiors museum bedecks its 12 period rooms to illustrate 400 years of British Yuletide traditions, from parlour games to kissing under the mistletoe – though sadly not snoozing in front of the EastEnders Christmas special. Geffrye Museum, London (020 7739 9893), to 3 Jan

A Roman Christmas The historical children's writer Caroline Lawrence travels back to pre-Christmas times for this costumed talk about the raucous Ancient Roman equivalent Saturnalia. British Museum, London (020 7323 8181), 6 Dec

Stephen Bayley on Why He Hates Christmas Trust the controversialist design guru Bayley to swim against the seasonal tide with this spleen-venting lecture for decadent arts club The Last Tuesday Society. Viktor Wynd's Academy of Domestic Science, Mare St, London (www.thelasttuesdaysociety.org), 15 Dec

Barbican Christmas Festival The impresario Raymond Gubbay presents an eclectic fortnight of Christmas music, from the conventionally sublime – Vivaldi's The Four Seasons – to the brilliantly silly – "Make The Yuletide Gay" with 1960s Eurovision princess Sandie Shaw. Barbican, London (020 7638 8891) 19 Dec to 3 Jan

Hogmanay celebrations Edinburgh's three-day Hogmanay programme is just the ticket for those looking to usher in 2010 with more than a hangover. Events include a street show from fire-and-light performance troupe Carabosse, modern dance showcase Off Kilter, and a New Year's Eve concert featuring old favourites Madness and bright young things the Noisettes. Various venues, Edinburgh (0844 894 2010), 29 Dec to 2 Jan

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