MONDAY 14 DECEMBER 2020 THISWEEKCULTURE.COM
GARI JONES: THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ
In recent months we've been taking rather a lot of notice of Oxford-based Creation Theatre, a company that's really adapted to the constraints of lockdown by supporting and creating a number of clever and innovative productions delivered via Zoom.

Their upcoming Christmas show is an adaptation of a well-loved favourite, 'The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz', and will reach you via the aforementioned online means. I think it will be a brilliant holiday treat, especially for families with children over seven.

To find out more about what to expect from the show, and how the company has been adapting to the digital stage, I spoke to director Gari Jones.

CLICK HERE to read this Caro Meets interview.

'The Wonderful Wizard of Oz' is on from 19 Dec-3 Jan, see the Creation Theatre website here for more information and to book.
We have real world shows to tip this week - though COVID rules can shift, so do check each venue's website for the latest information. And we are still tipping the best in digital culture from across the UK too - including online shows from performers and companies we first discovered at the Edinburgh Festival.


THREE FUNNY EVENTS>>

The Horne Section's Christmas | Rose Theatre Kingston | 18 Dec
This is one of those weeks when I act like a teacher and declare that there is "lots to get through", because, well, there is. Partly, I suspect, because it's the month of December and lots of people are putting on shows in celebration of Christmas. And two of the shows in this section actually allude to Christmas in some sense, so they are definitely celebrating the festive season. We are starting with a show you can actually leave the house for, and who wouldn't want to go and see "five talented musicians being made to do silly things by a bearded comedian"? Info and booking here.

How To Live A Jellicle Life | Lion & Unicorn Theatre | 15-19 Dec (pictured)
We've tipped this before when it was on back in… hmm, I think it was October, maybe? But we are tipping it again because I heard it was so damn good. It's by Linus Karp, who previously won acclaim with 'Awkward Conversations With Animals I've F*cked', and is a one man parody of the recent cinematic horror (according to pretty much all the critics) that is the 'Cats' film. "A show that provides a jellicle discussion about the jellicle aspects of the jellicle cats in 'Cats' and how you can apply them to your life in order to make it truly jellicle. Expect jellicle laughs, jellicle dance and a very jellicle PowerPoint presentation". More here.

No Such Thing As A Fish: Merry Fishmas! | King's Place | 17 Dec
Originally this section was supposed to be "funny things to go and see in person" but this show ruined it all by completely selling out of tickets. So, why is it still here? Well, fortunately for fans of this talented bunch, you can still book in to stream it straight into the comfort of your living room. "After 300 million downloads, sellout world tours, three books, two TV series, and one special edition cassette tape, the 'NSTAAF' team return to the stage for their second (and final) live show of 2020, a special CHRISTMAS episode of their multi-award-winning hit podcast, serving up the most bizarre, extraordinary and hilarious facts they've found in the last seven days". Details here.


THREE PANTOMIMES>>

The Fairytale Revolution | Theatre503 | 17-23 Dec (pictured)
Yay, it's panto season, which is heavenly for those of you who love panto. There are pantomimes happening here and there in actual venues, but usually by the time I come to write up a recommendation they have sold out. Which is why this panto section is two-thirds populated by shows that you'll be taking in online. Starting with 'The Fairytale Revolution' by Anna Spearpoint and Louise Beresford, which is being streamed online this year after being staged at Theatre503 last year. "Peter Pan and Lost Boyz might be ready for another adventure…but the world needs a new hero. Wendy's had enough of cleaning up everyone else's mess - so it's time to change her fate". Book, and find out more about the show and its creatives, on the venue website here.

Snow White In The Seven Months of Lockdown | Charles Court Opera/King's Head Theatre | 14-31 Dec
Speaking of regulars on the London panto scene, excellent pantomime veterans Charles Court Opera are back with an online offering this year, delivered via their usual home, the King's Head Theatre. This one, "the fairest boutique panto of them all", has been in the works for quite a while, and the film you will access features some interactive, viewer-choice-moments. As the company's take on the age-old story unfolds, what happens next is up to you. You can also choose between an adult version and a family-friendly version, which means it's for absolutely everyone. Yay, head for the venue's listing page here and select the one you want to see.

FROSTBITE - Who Pinched My Muff? | The Garden Theatre at The Eagle | 3 Dec-10 Jan
"The generically Germanic alpine village of Vaüxhallen is a happy place where all are honest and true. Quite frankly it's nauseating and no one thinks this more than the villainous human-hating Demon Frostbite, whose mission it is to freeze the hearts of all mankind! With his sights set on our warm-hearted friend Dame Herda Gerda, will Fairy Snowflake thwart his evil plans with a flurry of her magic? What about Lumiukko, our loveable snowman friend? Perhaps our hero Garbo will save the day and chop down the Beanstalk? Is that even the right show? Who knows!" This one's definitely just for adults, and it's by Myra Dubois' alter ego Gareth Joyner. And yes, it's outside, but the weather is mild, and the seating is undercover and heated. Book here.


THREE SPOOKY SHOWS>>

The Signalman | The Space | 16-19 Dec (pictured)
You'd think that spooky tales would be a Hallowe'en thing, but people really love some scary stuff at Christmas too, don't they? And who better to be dishing out the seasonal spookiness than Charles Dickens…? As much previously mentioned (hands up if you are bored of this by now!) we love Dickens and feverishly await December productions of adaptations of one of his most famous works, and 'The Signalman' is equally fabulous. It's an adaptation by Martin Malcolm, staged by Paragon Theatre, which won much acclaim appearing at Clapham Fringe, Brighton HorrorFest and the New Normal Festival, as well as during a sold out run last December. Which, you won't be surprised to hear, we included in our recommendations around this time last year. This show takes place at the venue, obviously with distancing, etc, in place, but you can also see it as a livestream. See more here.

A WhatsApp To The Curious | Down Stage Right | 20-22 Dec
As you may have noticed - if you've been keeping in touch with lockdown culture delivery - theatre companies and producers have been doing brilliantly inventive things with conferencing apps and suchlike to keep you all entertained. One rather interesting development, to my mind, has been the use of WhatsApp to reach audiences, and this week Down Stage Right are using said medium to tell five spooky stories: "This Christmas we can't gather together around a fire to tell ghost stories, so we're inviting you to join us in a WhatsApp group for an hour guaranteed to chill and entertain". I really want to take in these tales, created by Sam Parker, Mich Sanderson, Laura Horton, Alex Robins and Jon Nash. Book here.

The Haunting Of Alice Bowles | Original Theatre Online | 17 Dec-28 Feb
"1918. The recently widowed Alice Bowles is left destitute as she seeks to solve a mystery left by her late husband Francis. 2020. YouTube urban explorers Matt and Caitlin uncover a mysterious grave in an abandoned churchyard. What starts as harmless entertainment soon turns darker when their discovery begins to unwrap a mystery which has laid dormant for over century. But some things are better left for dead". An adaptation by Philip Franks of ghost story 'The Experiment' by M R James. It's got a cast full of familiar TV faces led by Tamzin Outhwaite, and it looks like it might be rather chilling. For more information and to view click here.


THREE MUSICAL SHOWS>>

Follow The Stars - Macmillan Carol Concert | available until 31 Dec
Do you usually go to a lovely candlelit carol service at this time of year and are you very sad that such things aren't happening this particular festive season? Would you love to partake of a lovely carol concert? Are you the sort of person who obsessively listens to carols while cooking from 1 Dec? Well, that last thing might be just me, but I feel pretty sure there are loads of you who would appreciate the chance to enjoy an online rendering of the sort of carol-y content you're used to at Christmas. So here's your chance. This concert, which aims to raise funds for Macmillan Cancer Support, was released on 11 Dec and is available until 31 Dec. Access it here.

Music For Advent | Electric Voice Theatre (pictured)
Sorry it took me so long to tell you about this. It was one of those things that I meant to tell you about a while back, and it sadly slipped off the list for a bit. It's not, however, too late to avail yourself of this fabulous musical advent calendar featuring a host of different styles of work: medieval carols, classical songs, acapella choruses, pop songs, animations, a podcast, and filmed performances. Particularly refreshing and glad-heart-making is the list of composers whose work has been used. I am so fed up of people thinking that all the good (in particular, classical) music is by men, when actually, there are plenty of women, historical and contemporary, who have produced amazing work despite the odds being against them. Anyway, enough of my ranting, go look at the advent calendar.

Arise Arise - A Christmas Show | King's Place | 20 Dec
"In an unmissable collaboration, five of the English folk scene's most inventive artists bring you 'Awake Arise - A Christmas Show For Our Times'; celebrating the riches of our varied winter traditions and reflecting upon the hope and resilience in music and song that can bring joy to us all in the darkest season". Oh, I love me some Christmas folk and I am very much hoping to tune into this show by award winning trio Lady Maisery (Hannah James, Rowan Rheingans and Hazel Askew) and musical partners Jimmy Aldridge and Sid Goldsmith. There are tickets available to be there for the performance, but you can also catch a livestream. More info here.


THREE GROWN UP SHOWS>>

Gabby Killick presents… LINES | Studio 9294 | 16 Dec
"After almost a year of LIVE events being cancelled and talented performers being told to retrain we cannot think of a more important time to put on a show! Hundreds of performances have been cancelled forcing amazing performers to perform only on Zoom and in their bedrooms, but on 16 Dec The Show Will Go On!" Actress and comedian Gabby Killick hosts this underground cabaret event showcasing undiscovered talent in comedy, music, burlesque, poetry and more. This is a live, socially distanced event, 10% of the proceeds of which will go towards supporting the arts and creative industries. More here.

Bark and The Campfire | Old Red Lion Theatre | 17-21 Dec
This is actually two socially distanced shows happening at the Old Red Lion Theatre in the coming week, but I couldn't choose between them so I thought I would tell you about them both. 'Bark', showing on 17 and 19 Dec, follows the story of Helen and Grace, who meet at a hospital and become friends: "With Christmas coming up, Helen plans something special, only for the night to fall into ruin when she discovers something about her new friend that will change everything". The second show, 'The Campfire' is performed on 18 and 21 Dec and is an improvised comedy horror show. "We are to horror what darts is to sport and what Ed Sheeran is to grime", boasts the blurb. "So come join us around our Christmas Campfire as we improvise some of the spookiest nonsense you've ever seen since Jennifer Aniston's appearance in 'The Leprechaun 2′". Click here for 'Bark' and here for 'The Campfire'.

Swimming Home | Silvia Mercuriali | 15 Dec-16 Jan (pictured)
This is an interesting one - an at-home and quite literally immersive experience for you to take in in your own bathroom. Silvia Mercuriali's latest Autoteatro piece leads participants through a private meditation to the bottom of a deep pool: "You will be immersed in an aquatic and sonic world in which the ordinary becomes fictional and your surroundings take on a new poetic meaning. Written following interviews with swimmers, swimming coaches and water lovers from all over the UK, the piece gently suggests a new look at the ritual of bathing". You'll need a swimsuit, swimming goggles and a big towel, plus your fully charged phone and headphones. Book your experience here.


THREE CHILDREN'S SHOWS>>

Don't Tell Santa | Chiswick Playhouse | 17-22 Dec
"Santa has been! The presents are under the tree and two sisters know they have to wait till Christmas morning to open them. Their excitement gets the better of them and they can't help themselves. And so begins a night-time adventure they'll never forget. They meet the elf on the shelf, dance in the snow and sail through the colours of the wind. But will they escape the naughty list and get back to bed in time for Christmas morning?" A fun sounding children's show for little ones ages four and up. Ah, I'm getting all emotional thinking of their little excited faces. Anyway, this is a show at an actual venue, one for a lovely pre-Christmas treat for little darlings. And little monkeys too, to be honest. See here.

The Wolves Of Willoughby Chase | Greenwich Theatre | 18 Dec-10 Jan
"A thrilling festive adventure set in an alternative history of England, 'The Wolves Of Willoughby Chase' tells the story of two brave and determined girls as they fight against ferocious wolves and battle their way through snowy wastelands to defeat their very evil guardian, Miss Slighcarp". Joan Aiken's novel is such a classic, and a perfect book to adapt for a Christmas show, and this production promises to be a "magical, musical, wintry treat". Another at-the-venue show for you, presented with social distancing measures in place, and I think it will be fabulous. Head this way to the venue website to read more about it and sort out your tickets.

Sleeping Beauty? | Tea Break Theatre | 17-30 Dec (pictured)
Now for something you can access from home, an epic interactive story told via Zoom, featuring puppetry, music and comedy. The guidance says it's perfect for ages four to nine, though some children might find it a bit scary. "Everyone knows the story: in a far away time and a far away place there was a sleeping castle and a beautiful sleeping Princess. Except the REAL story is that this is happening right now and Princess Rose is not actually asleep!" Read more about what to expect and book your tickets here.


THREE MORE ONLINE THINGS FOR FAMILIES>>

The Saving Of Santa | The Space | 20-23 Dec
"Oh no! There's something wrong with Santa. It's up to chief elf 'n' safety officer Nordstrom, Aurora, the cleverest fairy and YOU, to save Christmas. Can you help overturn the dastardly deeds of revolting elves Marmadron and Squelch before it's too late?" This sounds great: this original story was first staged at The Space all the way back in 2009 but it's been revived as an online interactive adventure. Which all adds up to a lovely Christmassy treat for your lovely children, all without leaving your home. Hurrah. Oh, and it's signed by a BSL interpreter on 20 Dec. Head to this page here for more information and to get yourself booked in.

A Christmas Carol | Polka Theatre | 19-27 Dec (pictured)
Remember what we were saying earlier about our love of Dickens and Scroogy shenanigans? Well, there really wasn't any chance we'd be passing up the chance to talk about this one, even though it's a fairly short version of 'A Christmas Carol' and very much suitable for younger audiences. It sounds fab, and has been created using a lot of paper and other reusable materials: "The show is almost entirely recycled and recyclable, mostly made from cardboard but also materials from the huge waste generated over the Christmas period - wrapping paper, fairy lights, ribbons, bows, bubble wrap and baubles". It's free when you sign up for it, but do consider making a donation. Click here.

Edinburgh International Magic Festival | 16-20 Dec
Yay, magic lovers, here's a great big treat for you, a virtual festival of magic, and it's full of good things. I've put it in the family section because the shows fall into a range of recommended ages, so although some are only good for adults or teenagers, there's plenty for younger children too. Lined up to entertain and/or inform you are Elliot Bibby, Ryan K Davidson, Kevin Quantum, Magic Gareth (definitely good for smaller ones, this one), Billy Reid, Tricky Ricky, Gary James (who is doing a workshop) and Vincent Gambini. Tickets for all shows are £10 and you can buy a festival pass for £50. For more info on all the acts, and to book, see the festival website here.
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