MONDAY 13 DECEMBER 2021 THISWEEKCULTURE.COM
SUSAN PENHALIGON: INTO THE NIGHT
I was immediately interested in 'Into The Night', the latest production from Original Theatre, the moment I heard about it.

It's a play about the Penlee lifeboat disaster - in which the crew of the Solomon Browne, from the Penlee Lifeboat Station in Cornwall, lost their lives - and its initial livestream performance is timed to coincide with the fortieth anniversary of that tragic event.

The show is an adaptation - by Frazer Flintham - of 'Penlee: The Loss Of A Lifeboat', a book by Penlee RNLI volunteer and author Michael Sagar-Fenton. And the production is directed by Alistair Whatley.

One of the actors appearing in the show is veteran star of screen and stage Susan Penhaligon. I arranged a quick chat with her to find out more.

CLICK HERE to read this Caro Meets interview.

'Into The Night' is broadcast live on 18 Dec, and will be available on demand from 6-30 Jan. See this page here to book yourself into the livestream, and here to view on demand.
Shows to see in person in London - and online anywhere - including performances from people and companies we first discovered at the Edinburgh Festival.


THREE TO STREAM>>

Puss In Moonboots / The Legend of Moby Dick Whittington | Sleeping Trees | until 15 Jan (pictured)
I feel as though quite a lot of you will be choosing to stay in a bit more in the weeks ahead, what with the cold dark nights and the threat of a new variant, etc, so I thought we'd start this week with a selection of things you can view at home. Some of you may already be booked into Sleeping Trees' live-in-the-flesh panto at Battersea Arts Centre, but magically, you can also access two filmed shows online right now, 'Puss In Moonboots' and 'The Legend Of Moby Dick Whittington', both of which are perfect for family pre-Christmas viewing. Book to watch either or both right about here.

Showstopper! Christmas Livestream | 18 Dec
Hurrah, TW favourites The Showstoppers - whose livestreams have cheered many through pandemic times - are doing a special Christmassy livestream this week and I expect many of our readers will be pleased to hear about it. As ever, the award winning troupe will improvise a musical for your delectation using the audience's ideas for setting, songs and styles, and this time with Christmas themes. If you're already busy on 18 Dec, don't despair, if you can't be on your sofa to watch the livestream, you can buy a ticket and watch the event for seven days after the live broadcast. For information and to book tickets please head right this way.

Birthday With Friends: A Night Of Short Films | The Space | 17 Dec
This is an actual live event taking place at The Space, so London residents can attend in person if they like. But there's also an online watch party - available to those of you unable or unwilling to go to the actual venue - though it looks like the watch party might be focused on just one of the short films. Either way, it looks rather good: "Josie (Charlotte Anne-Tilley) is 21 and she's been making birthday preparations for months. Obsessed with reuniting the friends from her 'golden high school days', Josie's world is shaken when her high school best friends make a decision she will never forget". Read more here.


THREE FAMILY SHOWS>>

Five Little Christmas Monkeys | Park Theatre | 14-22 Dec (pictured)
Right, time for something for all your glowy-faced, Christmas-anticipating, no doubt over-excited young people, firstly over at Park Theatre, where Baby Panda present this "riot of music, numbers and clowning in a madcap monkey puppet zoo" for children aged two to six. Based on the well known song 'Five Little Monkeys', it's been developed in consultation with early-years numeracy specialists, and features puppets created by award-winning artist and illustrator Frances Barry, with music composed by Rex Horan of the Neil Cowley Trio. Head this way without delay, because tickets are flying away.

We All Wobble | Half Moon Theatre | 18 Dec
Only on for one day, so don't miss it, because it's from an award winning company, and it's a fab-sounding visual show. "Join our two lovable clowns as they weeble and wobble their way through a chaotic picnic. This life-sized roly poly spectacle is full of hilarious slapstick, near misses and messy chaos for the whole family. Falling hither and thither, these human-sized clown weebles never topple. A bold and colourful performance celebrating the wobbly-ness of life, because we all wobble!" More here.

Christmas Is Ruined | The Cockpit | 14-23 Dec
"It's Christmas Eve in London and all the children are tucked up in their beds. Bo is lying there in a big huff. He's just found out there won't be many presents this year, so obviously this means that Christmas is RUINED!!" We tipped this show last year, but then it had its run cut short when we went into another lockdown, which was sad. The good news, of course, is that it's back for another run this year, and if you're looking for some festive family fun, it really should be a contender. Head to the venue website here to find out more.


THREE FUNNY SHOWS>>

Elf Lyons: Talks Dirty For An Hour | Soho Theatre | 20-23 Dec (pictured)
And now for some funny and/or gently amusing stuff for those of you who need a laugh in these dark and desperate times. Yes, you're right, they're not that desperate, I just enjoy painting a picture of circumstances in which we all need comedy to survive. Anyway, the first act that's essential to your pre-Christmas survival is doing a show that's not, as far as I'm aware, in any way Christmassy, so people who are bored of Christmas now should definitely consider this one. I mean, consider it whatever your circumstances, because Elf Lyons is really super. "Elf is fed up with being told 'Don't say that, you're a lady'. Women can be filthy too and she is going to revel in it. Come take your bra off, sit in the dark and let's be rude". More here.

Mark Thomas: An Extra Plate | Battersea Arts Centre | 14-23 Dec
Yay, this very special TW favourite is headed to BAC for a really lovely sounding show: "Mark Thomas is just about the last person you'd associate with 'ho ho ho let's throw a log on the fire and gather round for Christmas'. But… MARK LOVES CHRISTMAS! Christmas singles, films, carols, decorations, presents, food and, most of all, Christmas stories! From this most unChristmassy storyteller comes Christmas tales from his life, time and family. The one where his dad was Father Christmas for the school fete, the Christmas spent alone, the dead neighbours, the broken hearts and the unexpected guests. Mark loves it all, but most of all he loves the stories of giving and sharing, celebrating and finding hope in the darkest time of year". Click here.

Nick Helm's Christmas FuckFest 6 | Pleasance Theatre | 20 Dec
"It's been a shitty couple of years, so what better way to acknowledge the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ than with the triumphant return of 'Nick Helm's Christmas Fuck Fest'?! We know how disappointed you all were last year, so grab your Christmas socks as we join the Nation's Uncle Nick Helm for the ultimate festive fanfare". Fans of the extremely popular Nick Helm will no doubt be very pleased to hear of their favourite's Christmas return, and will be fully aware of what to expect. Those who don't know? It's "an absolutely shambolic car crash of comedy marking the end of another wasted year all in aid of a good cause, where a slalom of comedians get to come up on stage and do a turn before fucking off into the ether". See this page here to check whether or not you are allowed to attend.


THREE THEATRE SHOWS>>

Shorts 2.0 | White Bear Theatre | 14-18 Dec
Like last week, the theatre section is a safe haven for all you folk who really have no desire or reason to engage with Christmas, and might, frankly, want to attend some cultural events with no festive overtones. This is a festival of short plays presented by the Make It Beautiful Theatre Company, with a different line up of pieces each night, and I have looked through the line up for each show and can confirm that only one title evokes Christmas. There are a lot of intriguing sounding ones as well though, and I expect your interest will be as piqued by them as much as mine was. For more information and to book tickets, head right this way.

Contact | Golden Goose Theatre | 14-16 Dec
And more unfestive theatre for you! This one says it's "the play that was written to make you delete dating apps" and promises to be a darkly comedic work that takes a look how we connect as humans while exploring themes of accountability and consent. There's also a suggestion that it touches on the notion of cancel culture, so it's very clearly got a contemporary feel. Anyway, it all sounds rather compelling and is presented by a great team. For more information and to book yourself in, take a look at the venue website here.

Kindred Spirits | Jack Studio Theatre | 14 Dec-8 Jan (pictured)
"Headstrong and obstinate writer Jeremy Roland cannot believe his luck when he inherits an idyllic country cottage, the perfect hideaway to escape Christmas and write his latest crime thriller. However, there is a catch. A mysterious ghostly presence haunts his new home, and it's not long before Jeremy finds the calm of his writer's retreat thrown into chaos and mayhem, as the characters in his book unexpectedly take on a life of their own". Yes, yes, I know, it says the word 'Christmas' in the blurb, which maybe sounds like it goes against my promise of a Christmas-free tips section, but read it again! That obstinate writer wants to ESCAPE Christmas, just like you! I rest my case. Also, this sounds like great fun, head this way.


THREE VERY SPECIFICALLY CHRISTMASSY SHOWS>>

Sh!t Theatre's Original Sing-A-Long-A-Muppet Christmas Carol | Camden People's Theatre | 16-19 Dec (pictured)
Yeah, I am not going to promise you an escape from Christmas in this section, because literally every show in this bit has the word 'Christmas' in the title. It is, after all, getting closer to Christmas. Those of you who've been reading our tips for years may well have a sense of deja vu with this one, because TW favourite Sh!t Theatre do this show every year and we, accordingly, give it a recommendation every year. It's funny and brilliant and actually probably now has what you might call a cult status. Or a cult following? Anyway, it's very popular, with good reason, and so I wouldn't hang about, if I were you, I would be heading right this way to the Camden People's Theatre website to book my tickets before they all sell out.

The Tiger Lillies' Christmas Carol | Southbank Centre | 14-30 Dec
"The trio dissect and reassemble the story that everyone knows to shine a light on the poverty and depravity laid bare on the cold London streets. The world of The Tiger Lillies is dark, peculiar and varied, with moments of deep sadness, cruel black humour and immense beauty. Their songs cover all the dark aspects of life, from prostitution and drug addiction to violence and despair". The Tiger Lillies - who we first discovered with some delight up at the old edfringe many years ago - present a "dark musical twist" on the Dickens classic, which, to be fair, is already pretty dark. It's what you'd expect from them, though, and they will do it brilliantly. See this page here for more information and to book.

Awake Arise: A Christmas Show For Our Times | King's Place/Online | 20 Dec
Here's something for all you music lovers out there, in particular those of you with a simultaneous penchant for both folk and Christmas. The show is a collaboration between award winning trio Lady Maisery (aka Hannah James, Rowan Rheingans and Hazel Askew), and musical partners Jimmy Aldridge and Sid Goldsmith, and they're all very much acclaimed. Expect a celebration of "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, and you can see it in the flesh, but also online, which is great. More here.


THREE PANTOMIMES>>

Dick Whittington | Chelsea Theatre | 18-24 Dec
I bet you can't believe how many pantomimes there are happening in the Greater London area, can you? For yes, we are able to recommend yet another three this week. Though, to be fair, they are mostly pantos with a difference. I think this first one from Chelsea Theatre and Rah Rah Theatre Company is the most traditional of the three. "A tale of adventure, love and entertainment. Jump onboard for an action-packed, fun-filled journey with Dick Whittington as he seeks his fame and fortune in the glittering streets of London, to win the heart of the beautiful Alice and become Lord Mayor of London". Click here.

It's Behind You | Old Red Lion Theatre | 17+19-22 Dec (pictured)
Yes, I think you can probably tell from that title that this is going to be something a little outside the panto norm, and that's definitely the case. This one is a horror panto, and it's very much not for kids, as it's only recommended for humans aged fifteen and over, but you can also expect it to be a funny, festive parody, even though it involves blood and guts as well. "Something wicked is lurking backstage at the local panto and not everyone is getting out alive. Colin Collins, manic director and dame extraordinaire, is dealt a devastating blow when his Snow White suffers a series of near fatal mishaps! Who will climb his beanstalk now?" For more information and to book tickets head right this way.

Potted Panto | Garrick Theatre | 11 Dec-9 Jan
This one's different too, for a couple of reasons. Not only is it not a conventional panto, but it's on in the West End, and we tend to talk more about fringier/off West End stuff, as a general rule. So why tip 'Potted Panto'? Well, we first came across the work of the creative team behind this show up at the old edfringe, so it's probably a loyalty thing. Though they clearly don't need our help - and most of our readers might well be aware of the show already - because, well, it's a big West End thing now. But, you know, for those of you who haven't been paying attention for a while now (this is not its first run), this is a fabulously fun mashup of seven different well loved panto stories, and you'll love it. See this page here to book.


THREE MUSICALS>>

A Wicked Tale | Canal Cafe Theatre | 19-23 Dec (pictured)
Yay, time for some jolly musicals, and at least one of them is suitable for Christmas avoiders as well as those who are making seasonal merry. This one has Christmassy characters, but they are all bent on festive destruction: it's a "twisted fairytale" about Orla, a girl who has spent her life in an orphanage after being abandoned there one Christmas Day. Obv, she hates life and Christmas, so gangs up with the son of Scrooge, the Grinch's wife, the Elf's daughter and the grandson of the Evil Snowman with the aim of ruining Christmas. So that sounds interesting. And its suitable for older children, aged eight and over, so it might be one for a family outing. See this page here for more information and to book tickets.

Grrrlz | Etcetera Theatre | 17-18 Dec
This is a comedy musical, originally written and filmed during lockdown times, and released online in four episodes, but now it comes to a stage near you! "Amidst the social revolution, colourful fashions and the vibrant music of the late sixties, Kathy Brown has spent so much time attending protest marches that she is suspended from Oxford University. Through the 'renowned scholastic agency of Grabitall And Tring', she finds employment as the Lower Fifth Form tutor at Ruffwood Park, a girls' school that has remained untouched by the swinging sixties. Will Kathy ever be able to get through to the unruly Lower Fifth Form? Will they ever want to learn anything? And will the fearsome headmistress Miss de Trique's reign of terror ever come to an end?" Click here.

Beauty And The Beast | Rose Theatre | 3 Dec-3 Jan
"Tucked away in their attic on a cold Christmas night, three siblings bring the story of Bella, and her adventures in Villeneuve, to life. On her eighteenth birthday, Bella learns that her father is the victim of a terrible curse. Determined to face the Beast who condemned her father, she sets out on a journey across the mountains in a race to learn the truth". This began its run quite a while ago, and it's been on my list of things to mention for a while, but there are so many good Christmas shows on that I can't mention them all. And this one's on at a great big theatre, so you may well know about it already. Anyway, this musical version of this classic tale comes from a great team, it having been created by Ciaran McConville and Eamonn O'Dwyer, and directed by Lucy Morrell. Head this way to read more.


THREE MORE INTERESTING EVENTS>>


she seeks out wool | Pleasance Theatre | 19 Dec
And finally, a random mix of events of varying genres that all sound rather fab. This one, at Pleasance, is a fascinating piece featuring spoken word and large scale live knitting - and given there's been such a resurgence of interest in yarn crafts in recent years, I feel sure that will pique many of you. And, as the blurb says, "in this year of rebuilding, unravelling and starting to rebuild again, it's a practice that has lessons for us all. What does it mean to create something stitch by stitch? What does it mean to mend mistakes in the pattern? What does it mean to be close-knit? Writer-performer Sophie Ablett shares the journey of her family and the discovery of the loose threads, the relatives left behind and how the past can be woven into the present". Book here.

The Luna Winter Cinema | Battersea Arts Centre | 14-23 Dec
Luna Winter Cinema returns, and actually is already under way at Kensington Palace. But I am recommending the run of events at Battersea Arts Centre because it's on my list of favourite venues. Anyway, if you're not sure of what to expect here, it's a series of screenings of your favourite Christmas films, beginning with 'Elf' and ending with 'Love Actually', and taking in the likes of 'Home Alone', 'Die Hard' and 'Nativity' along the way. There's comfy seating available at a price, and Christmassy food to avail yourself of while you watch, and you can even pre-order boxes of said festive fare. See this page here for more info and to book in.

The Little Prince | The Place | 18-24 Dec (pictured)
Let's end with some dance from one of our favourite troupes, Luca Silvestrini's Protein Dance, and their award winning show 'The Little Prince', based on the world-famous story by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, and featuring dance - as you might expect - plus humour and spoken word. Certainly a good one for a family outing, as there should be plenty to entertain even younger children. "Find out how the Little Prince leaves behind his own tiny asteroid and beloved rose and journeys through the universe, coming face to face with the baffling world of grown-ups!" For more information and to book your tickets, head right this way.
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