Midnight’s Pumpkin, Battersea Arts Centre, 8 December to 13 January
Billed as "a right-royal-Kneehigh-knees-up" this production by the celebrated Kneehigh theatre group is an unusual take on the Cinderella story. Preparations are well underway for a Royal Ball as the Prince – Charming of course – is in search of a bride. But to find her he must get past a talking pumpkin, ugly sisters, a batch of severed toes, formation dancing and a particularly stringent midnight curfew. It is a good option for those who enjoy joining in. "We made Midnight's Pumpkin as a gift for our Cornish audience [last year]. We wanted them to be the stars of the show, and so they were! I chose Cinderella for the Balls - what better excuse to invite our audience into the action," said Kneehigh’s joint artistic director Emma Rice.
Snow White 1
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Wycombe Swan, High Wycombe, 7 December to 5 January
Strictly judge Craig Revel Horwood and former Tory politician Ann Widdecombe are reprising their double-act as the Wicked Queen and Widdy-in-waiting in High Wycombe this year. I had the pleasure of witnessing their chemistry (and dancing) last year at the Orchard Theatre, Dartford. Horwood was a joy. He clattered onstage in his stilettos, like a Rottweiler trussed up spandex spitting: "Hello peasants". Widdecombe was barely recognisable in a curly red wig as Horwood’s decrepit old foil trotting along beside him like a loyal puppy, occasionally making jokes about Nick Clegg. Last year the overall pantomime was no great shakes, but these two together are sublime.
Merrie Hell, Soho Theatre, London, until 5 January
This show from Richard Thomas, the creator of Jerry Springer: The Opera, is far from the usual sugary seasonal fare. It contains cheery Christmas numbers including "It's not wrong to wanna die" and "I renounce my religion". Thomas, who has teamed up with David Hoyle, says: "If you hate Christmas, you’ll love this show. It's like a Christmas party for Dignitas." Thomas will accompany Hoyle on piano - his first stage appearance for 16 years. This time, at least, he’s not expecting the angry Christian mobs who picketed his Springer chef d’oeuvre. "That was so tedious. I don’t consider my stuff to be controversial. But this show is not bland, I will say that."
A Christmas Fair, The Milton Rooms, Malton, 13 to 23 December
Starring our beloved Helen George from Call The Midwife this new work by Jim Cartwright promises to be a serious festive play. In the old village hall, locals are setting up their stalls for the annual Christmas fair. Amid the bric-a-brac, tombola and crafts, hilarious and sometimes heartbreaking stories emerge, fuelled by the powerful Christmas punch at the refreshments table. Young love seems imminent, the vicar has his mind elsewhere, Veronica needs all hands on deck to make this fair a success and the caretaker just wants to go home. The piece was written specifically for the Milton Rooms, a new arts venue whose patrons include
Dick! Leicester Square Theatre, London, until 20 January
Not one to take this kids to. This adult Panto stars David Hodge, aka, Miss Dusty O, who is well known in London’s club scene but plays a drag-queen dame an a refreshing take on Dick Whittington. Billed as "the grown-up, filthy version" this production has “every taboo thrown in, and it just kicks them to bits” Hodge told The Independent this week. "The traditional dame is a caricature, not a drag queen. Well, this one, looks-wise, it's me," he said. "It's very much high fashion, couture, slick, none of those giant boobs and wishy-washy outfits. They're all Vivienne Westwood. I'm known for that. When people book me, that's what they want: the high finish, three hours in front of the mirror, a wig that doesn't look like it's been slept in."
The Prince and the Pauper
The Prince and the Pauper, Unicorn Theatre, London, until 13 January
Set in “a Tudor London so vibrant you can smell the potato peelings” this version of Mark Twain’s Royal switcheroo is another Christmas classic. Starring Nicholas Boulton and directed by Selina Cartmell, this production received a four star review from WhatsOnStage which called it “brilliant adaptation” by Jemma Kennedy. Mark Twain’s classic tale of confused identities tells the story of what happens when the one is mistaken for the other: Tom Canty is forced into the world of the court and power, while Edward is cast down into a world of poverty and thieves, from which he must fight his way back to the Court.
The Mouse and His Child
The Mouse and His Child, Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, until 12 January
This theatrical adaptation of a lesser-known children’s classic by Russell Hoban revolves around a father- and-son relationship of two wind-up toy mice who are discarded from a toyshop and must find a way to live independently in their new, unknown world. Tamsin Oglesby, the show's scriptwriter who was given free rein to choose a children's story for Christmas by the RSC, told The Independent last month: “It is wonderfully weird, very humane and very dark, and I love the way it switches from darkness to humour."
Rapunzel, Studio, Sheffield Crucible, Sheffield, 12 December to 5 January
Younger children will be delighted by this adaptation of Rapunzel by tutti frutti and York Theatre Royal which follows on from their successful Hare and Tortoise collaboration a year ago. It is by Mike Kenny, who penned the successful adaptation of E Nesbit’s The Railway Children at the National Railway Museum, York which transferred to London’s Waterloo last year. Placed high–up in a tower above the world and faced with the challenge of growing–up, she is found alone, dreaming…For ages 3+
Hansel and Gretel
Hansel and Gretel, Cottesloe, National Theatre, 7 December to 26 January
A perfect family option for the more discerning theatre-goer who’d rather not stoop to Panto. Following on from her productions of The Cat in the Hat and Beauty and the Beast, Katie Mitchell returns to the National to collaborate with writer Lucy Kirkwood for what is billed as “magical” new production of the Brothers Grimm tale. Two children lost in the woods…a trail of breadcrumbs…and a bewitching house made of sweets.Suitable for seven to 10-year-olds.
Snow White 2
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, New Wimbledon Theatre, London, 7 December to 13 January
Starring Elvis’s ex-wife Priscilla Presley as the Wicked Queen in her pantomime debut, this show is more star-studded than the royal tiara. It features Warwick Davis or Life’s Too Short, Harry Potter and Willow fame as head dwarf Prof (we’re not sure what happened to Doc, Sneezy, Grumpy, Dopey, Bashful, Happy and Sleepy). You’ll recognise Priscilla from the Naked Gun series and Dallas. The role of the appropriately named Jarred Christmas of Nevermind the Buzzcocks and 8 out of 10 cats will play Herman the Henchman.