Dames, snowmen and... Prince Corbyn: The best pantos in north London
PUBLISHED: 17:19 03 December 2015
Dancing snowmen, travelling snails and a dragged-up Mrs Bennet from Pride and Prejudice line-up for family shows around north London this Christmas. Bridget Galton rounds up the best to see.
Jacksons Lane is the home of children’s theatre company Tall Stories, masters of adapting Julia Donaldson’s bestselling storybooks for the stage. The Snail and the Whale (Dec 5-January 3 jacksonslane.org.uk) about a tiny snail who longs to see the world and hitches a lift on the tail of a humpback whale, takes in her amazing adventure with sharks, penguins, icebergs, volcanoes and a daring rescue mission when the whale becomes beached. A framing story about an adventurous girl who longs to sail the world with her seafaring father is inspired by the work of Storybook Soldiers, a charity helping British servicefolk to record bedtime stories for their children back home. As with all Tall Stories shows it features imaginative storytelling, original music and audience interaction.
Peut-etre Theatre return to the Roundhouse in Chalk Farm following last year’s sell-out show The Tin Soldier with a circus-dance-theatre piece for children aged 3 and up.
The Little Bird Who Stayed for Winter (December 14 – January 4 roundhouse.org.uk) is an uplifting story of love, adventure and heartache told by four physically expressive performers. About creating art, finding a friend and learning to fly, its heroine is a creature who loves the songs of a Parisian street artist so much that she stays behind when the other birds fly away for winter.
At the Shaw Theatre in Euston (December 12- 30 shaw-theatre.com) Hollywood meets traditional panto in L Frank Baum’s fairytale The Wizard of Oz. Join Dorothy and Toto on the Yellow Brick Road assisted by Bucks Fizz legend Cheryl Baker as Glinda the Good Witch, and Andrew Crawford ‘Professor Poet from CBeebies The Rhyme Rocket’ as Scarecrow. Packed with familiar pop songs and audience participation, will the wonderful Wizard of Oz be able to help them before the Wicked Witch of the West captures them?
John and Katie Plews’ annual festive musical theatre toe-tapper is a fixture of Christmas in Highgate. This year it’s Legally Blonde the Musical (Dec 16-January 31 upstairsatthegatehouse.com) adapted from the movie about perky blonde Elle Woods who overcomes prejudice to become a top law student.
Prejudice is also a theme at The Cockpit in NW8 with quirky Pride and Prejudice the Panto. (December 8-20 thecockpit.org.uk) By Jove Theatre, an ensemble specialising in interpreting classic tales in politically edged theatre, have pitched Austen’s novel as an uproarious battle between good fairy Jane and her wicked wordsmith antagonist Charles Dickens. With Mrs Bennet as the dame, obsessed with pairing off her five daughters, it marries the absurd anarchic tropes of pantomime with a tale of passion, scandal, wet shirts and live regency style pop covers. Will Dickens thwart Austen’s feisty heroines or will they find love and happiness?
Also from Tall Stories Room on the Broom (December 8-January 3 artsdepot.co.uk) is at North Finchley’s Arts Depot. Julia Donaldson’s storybook of a witch who loses her hat, bow and wand but acquires a trio of animals who overload her broom has been jauntily adapted with original songs for ages three and up. Later (December 15 until January 3) children’s theatre specialists Oily Cart have developed Land of Lights as suitable for 3-5s including those with sensory communication or learning disabilities. The immersive, interactive multi-sensory show explores sights sounds smells and textures and features live music, puppets and a sparkling finish as a colourful hot air balloon floats over a tiny world journeying to the twinkly land of lights.
The Park promises a “surreal and wacky” panto with Rapunzel (parkthetare.co.uk December 3 until January 2) with original book, lyrics and music by artistic director Jez Bond who also directs. For the third year running it explores the chronicles of the mythical land of Waa as the Queen of Puss Puss is struck down by an illness that can only be cured by the powerful herb Rapunzel, grown by a witch who snatches her child. Years later can Prince Corbyn rescue the princess from the tower? “With each fairytale we have created a world of our own complete with language, gestures, greetings and flora and fauna. A land which borrows more from Tolkien, Pratchett and Tim Burton than traditional panto,” says Bond.
Finally, Father Christmas can be spotted flying over Hammersmith flyover in the Lyric’s acclaimed adaptation of Raymond Briggs’ story until December 24... naturally (lyric.co.uk)
Finally Sadler’s Wells stages three festive shows including Christmas institution The Snowman (until January 3) an enchanting children’s ballet with Howard Blake’s original score as a young boy builds a snowman who comes to life and travels to the North Pole. In the main theatre Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty returns (December 1 until January 24 sadlerswells.com) with a supernatural love story set to Tchaikovsky’s beautiful score. And at the Liliyan Baylis studio a return for Arthur Pita’s haunting adaptation of Hanns Christian Anderson’s Little Match Girl Dec 12 until January 3)