MONDAY 20 DECEMBER 2021 THISWEEKCULTURE.COM
You may remember that, in the last couple of years - because loads of the shows that we tip in the latter part of the year are still running throughout December and some even into January - we've given you a round-up of those productions in our last communication of the year, in case you're still planning your cultural activities for the festive period.

The majority of these events are definitely what you would call Christmas shows, though others have nothing at all to do with Christmas, and may be of use to those of you entirely uninterested in Christmas things, but still looking for stuff to do over the holiday. And, of course, many also appeal to Christmas lovers seeking a bit of a change from all the usual seasonal fare.

Most of these shows are live and in-person, and we know that lots of events have been forced to cancel as COVID related restrictions start to increase again. To that end, it's possible not everything we're talking about here will definitely go ahead - so do check in advance and don't just turn up.

But keep your fingers crossed and take heart - hopefully the majority of these shows will be able to proceed - plus we also have suggestions of stuff for you to access digitally.

OK, let's begin with stuff for families, because there are so many great kids shows happening this month. I'm going to start with shows that only have a few dates left so that you can act quickly if necessary.

You've got two days until the run of 'Five Little Christmas Monkeys' at Park Theatre ends, and a similar situation with both 'The Wonderful' at Theatre Peckham and 'Christmas Is Ruined' at The Cockpit. 'The Cat In The Hat' at The Turbine Theatre, meanwhile, finishes its run on 23 Dec, and Protein Dance's 'The Little Prince' at The Place closes on Christmas Eve.

Then, of course, there are plenty of family shows on until the end of the month or into January, which might be good for alleviating the back-to-school blues. The Chickenshed has three shows suitable for various ages: 'Christmas Planet Play' for tiny ones on 21+29 Dec, 'Christmas Tales At Chickenshed' for under-sevens until 29 Dec, and 'Ever After - A Mixed Up Fairytale' for over-fives until 8 Jan.

The rather popular 'The Tiger Who Came To Tea' continues its run at ArtsDepot until 3 Jan, and you can see both 'The Bolds' at Unicorn Theatre and 'The Snow Queen' at The Albany until 31 Dec.

You've got the whole of the Christmas period as well as nearly the whole of January to see 'Cinderella - The Awesome Truth' at Polka Theatre and 'The Storm Whale' at Little Angel Theatre, while there's still plenty of time to book at date with 'There May Be A Castle', also on at Little Angel Theatre, until 23 Jan. Oh, and there's another thing at the Polka Theatre, 'The Night Before Christmas', until 16 Jan.

And naturally, in addition to all those family shows, there are the pantomimes, which you are of course allowed to go see as a grown adult, but are generally speaking very much for the kids too.

Some are ending before Christmas - I'm thinking about 'Dick Whittington' at Chelsea Theatre and 'Sleeping Beauty' at Hoxton Hall which both close on 24 Dec, and horror panto (not for little ones) 'It's Behind You' at Old Red Lion Theatre, which has a couple more performances you can catch.

There are plenty running on into January of course: 'Potted Panto' at Garrick Theatre, 'Cinderella' at Richmond Theatre, 'Dick Whittington And His Cat' at Watford Palace Theatre, 'Jack And The Beanstalk' at Hackney Empire, 'Sleeping Beauty' at Churchill Theatre, 'The Queen Of Hearts' at Greenwich Theatre, and 'Beowulf: An Epic Panto' at King's Head Theatre.

You'll need to be a bit quicker to take in these last three: 'Snow White' at Theatre503 is on until 30 Dec, while 'Red Riding Hood' at Theatre Royal Stratford East ends the following day. 'Sleeping Beauty And The Beast' from Sleeping Trees (pictured) at Battersea Arts Centre is another show that closes on 30 Dec.

Speaking of Sleeping Trees: as well as appearing at Battersea Arts Centre, they have a couple of fab shows available online for your comfy, at home, digital consumption: you can see 'Puss In Moonboots' and ' The Legend of Moby Dick Whittington' until 15 Jan. And there is, of course, other stuff from other creators for you to take in via the miraculous internet. There's the interactive 'Sherlock In Homes 3: Murder At The Games' via Bristol Old Vic until 8 Jan, and 'Into Battle' via stream.theatre until 31 Jan.

Right, what's next? Would you like a few musical things to consider? Finishing their runs on 23 Dec are 'Elf The Musical' at Brookside Theatre, and 'Wicked Tale' at Canal Cafe Theatre, while hanging on until nearly the end of the month is 'The Tiger Lillies' Christmas Carol' at Southbank Centre. If you need a bit more time, 'Beauty And The Beast' at Rose Theatre and 'Gatsby' at Southwark Playhouse are on until 3 Jan and 8 Jan respectively.

Now for some funny stuff. Elf Lyons 'Talks Dirty For An Hour' at Soho Theatre until 23 Dec, and Mark Thomas performs 'An Extra Plate' at Battersea Arts Centre until the same date. Sh*tfaced Showtime's 'A Pissedmas Carol' continues on into January at Leicester Square Theatre, as does Natalie Palamides' 'Laid' at Soho Theatre. 'Police Cops' at New Diorama ends before Christmas though, so make sure you get on to that quickly if you want to go.

Now if what you are craving over Christmas is some theatre, that's where we are headed next. Some of it's a bit Christmassy but some of it isn't, which might be pleasing for some of you.

In the definitely festive bracket there's the dark yet Christmassy 'A Christmas Carol - A Ghost Story' at Alexandra Palace Theatre, on until 9 Jan, and related re-imagining 'Cratchit' at the Park Theatre until 8 Jan, and another seasonal ghost story 'The Child In The Snow' at Wilton's Music Hall until 31 Dec.

In not specifically festive fare, there's 'Kindred Spirits' at Jack Studio Theatre until 8 Jan, 'Fair Play' at Bush Theatre until 22 Jan, 'The Wife Of Willesden' at Kiln Theatre until 24 Dec, and 'While The Sun Shines' at Orange Tree Theatre until 8 Jan.

Finally, three things that didn't really fit into the other categories. We don't often tip film stuff, but we did recommend The Luna Winter Cinema at Battersea Arts Centre, which continues showing Christmas favourites until 23 Dec. Matthew Bourne's 'Nutcracker' at Sadler's Wells, on until nearly the end of Jan, is of course dance, though good for a family outing, I think. And another family outing candidate is 'Lightopia' at Crystal Palace Park until 2 Jan.

So that’s your lot. And it is a lot. There have been lots of shows to talk about this November and December. So, having covered the stuff we’ve been talking about these last few weeks, let’s move on to the shows happening in the week ahead, with our latest interview and this week's Threes To See.

And, in the meantime, Merry Christmas! See you in 2022.


SARAH-LOUISE YOUNG: JULIE MADLY DEEPLY AND YES QUEENS

I was really happy when I heard we had a reason to interview the fabulous Sarah-Louise Young this week - it feels good and fitting to end the year with a long term favourite, and a past winner of one of our ThreeWeeks Editors' Awards.

And what's the reason? Well, she's headed to Park Theatre this week to begin a run of her acclaimed show 'Julie Madly Deeply', which she performs with musical director and co-star Michael Roulston. She'll also be doing an appearance in the same venue shortly in 'Yes Queens', a fab female-led improv show.

I spoke to her to find out more about both of those shows - and to have a general catch up on all things Sarah-Louise.

CLICK HERE to read this Caro Meets interview.

'July Madly Deeply' is on at the Park Theatre from 20 Dec-2 Jan. Read more and book tickets here.

'Yes Queens' is on at the same venue on 23 + 30 Dec. Click here for more.
Shows to see in person in London - and online anywhere - including performances from people and companies we first discovered at the Edinburgh Festival.


THEATRICAL THINGS TO STREAM>>

The Funny Girls | stream.theatre | until 1 Jan
It's the final tips of the year, and we've nearly tipped everything we needed to tip. We have a few more new recommendations for you for over the Christmas holidays though. And I thought perhaps we would start by focusing on some digital shows that you can take in at home, not least because so many live performances are being cancelled again. Fingers crossed for as many in-person shows staying open as possible. But if not, maybe you'd like to take in 'The Funny Girls', which is an acclaimed play about Barbra Streisand and Joan Rivers, who appear together in a questionable off-Broadway production together at the respective ages of 19 and 24, and then meet again as big stars ten years later. Read more about it here.

Belvedere | stream.theatre | until 25 Dec
"Something strange is afoot at the Belvedere psychiatric clinic. Anton, a famous writer, has checked himself into Belvedere to receive treatment for his hallucinations. But after a few weeks he seems to have become the subject of a medical study by young Dr Defoe. Now Anton is tired of being locked away alone and isolated with his own thoughts. As a mysterious visitor from Anton's past appears, the border between reality and imagination is blurred". This fascinating play from award winning international playwright Ana-Maria Bamberger promises to keep you on the edge of your seat as it explores memory, creativity and mental health in a witty, moving and thrilling way. Available on demand right about here.

The Elf Who Was Scared Of Christmas | stream.theatre | until 2 Jan (pictured)
Yay, something for kids. Maybe it can keep them occupied while you wrap their Christmas presents. Unless you are one of those really terrible people who is so organised that you have that done already. Alright, you're not terrible, but I envy you. Anyway, this children's show - which I recommended last year when it was on at Charing Cross and which I think maybe had its live run cut short last Christmas...? - is about Figgy and Cupcake, two of Santa's elves. Cupcake is the one who is scared of Christmas. Can Figgy help her overcome her fears? I reckon. For more information and to arrange to view, head to this page here.


THREE MORE DIGITAL THINGS>>

Mother Christmas | online via Little Angel Theatre
Not sure three digital options are enough, especially when there are some classy things on offer, so let's go ahead and have a section of digital things of various different genres. This is another thing for children, from a great team, and with a rather interesting theme. "Father Christmas, Santa Claus, St Nick... we think we know who's responsible for delivering our presents on Christmas Eve. But who plots the sleigh's route, triple checks the presents and manages air traffic control on the all-important night? Mother Christmas, of course! The LAT News film crew have secured exclusive behind-the-scenes access to the mastermind of Christmas Eve, as she prepares for the busiest night of the year in her high-tech control centre". Read more here.

Ballo Arthur Pita's The Little Match Girl | Sadler's Wells Digital Stage | until 4 Jan (pictured)
"On an icy cold Christmas Eve in an imaginary Italian town, the little match girl wanders the streets with just one final match to keep her warm. Along her journey she encounters kindness and cruelty in a fable about family, friendship and hope". Arthur Pita's dance-theatre production of 'The Little Match Girl', based on the familiar Hans Christian Andersen story, of course, is a delightfully visual treat accompanied by beautiful and atmospheric music. It's suitable for children over five, but probably also not to be missed by dance-loving adults. Head this way to view.

Crimes Clues and Christmas podcast | New Old Friends
You may well remember that last December the brilliant New Old Friends came up with a really nice treat to soothe our pandemic-sore hearts, and it was a comedic Agatha Christie-inspired festive thriller, released as podcast episodes one a day during the run up to Christmas, in the manner of a nice advent calendar. And that was lovely, and you can still listen to it, in fact, as well as to other subsequent series released at other times of the year. Anyway, this year I didn't realise they were doing this December thing again, and so I am late to the party, which is frankly typical. Though it does mean you get to go and binge-listen, should you feel so inclined. Find the episodes here (and through other great podcast platforms obv).


THREE FAMILY SHOWS>>

Breaking The Ice | ArtsDepot | 15-31 Dec
Okay, and now for some live and in person shows happening in the Greater London area, and in this section we are talking about stuff for families, because there are lots of them - shows and families. We start with this non-verbal show at ArtsDepot that uses physical theatre, puppetry, interactive projection, animation and traditional Sami music to tell its story. "This playful and light-hearted show is inspired by the true story of an unlikely friendship between a husky and a wild polar bear. Join us on a journey into the snow where music, shadows and projection will transport you to a place where polar bears and huskies really can be friends". More here.

Pinocchio | Orange Tree Theatre | 14-31 Dec
"Hugo is bored, lonely and needs a friend, so his mum makes him his very own Pinocchio, setting them both on an adventure to the top of a snowy mountain, out to pleasure island and into the belly of a wiggly whale! With puppetry and original music, use your imagination to help Hugo on his magical journey with friends new and old this winter". This one's described as a fun and interactive show for anyone from three to 103, and it explores "the adventures we can have when we pretend". There are interactive elements, too, so you might want to avoid the floor cushions if you want to circumvent that. Sounds like a lot of fun, anyway, read about it here.

A Christmas Circus Fairytale | Jacksons Lane | 17 Dec-2 Jan (pictured)
This one's a treat for those of you who love the circus and acrobatics and all that stuff. "Glass slippers, poisoned apples and magic lamps. The stuff of fables and legends. But over the centuries, through countless retellings, some of the important details have been forgotten. This Christmas, Jacksons Lane invites you to gaze into the magic mirror and see the truth in this collection of tales. Did the princess really need rescuing? Was the witch all that wicked? This is your chance to see Sleeping Beauty, Red Riding Hood and two very charming princes as you've never seen them before, stepping out of the storybook to dance in the air, fly across the stage and dazzle with their fantastical feats". Well, I am sold. Head this way to book tickets.


THREE THEATRE SHOWS>>

7 Stages - Or The Working Title Grief Story | White Bear Theatre | 22-23 Dec
Back to theatre now, of the live and in person kind, and also the non-festive kind. First thing I am going to say is this: you shouldn't be put off by that title, if you're worried that this is going to be a really sad show, because although it does deal with grief and loss in lockdown, it does so in a humorous way, and is the work of a talented and award winning performer. '7 Stages' is "an exploration of life and death, grieving and healing in a world disrupted from it's usual routine. Come meet the characters pivotal in the shaping of a young man's journey to self-discovery. '7 Stages' is a hilariously touching autobiography of family, love, ambition and loss, giving the audience an insight into the life of Italian/Australian culture dealing with death and grief". Click here.

Folk/Peggy For You | Hampstead Theatre | until 5 Feb/until 29 Jan
Normally when I plan to recommend shows at the Hampstead Theatre, all the performances for the week following are sold out so there's no point. This week it's not the case, so I thought I would celebrate by recommending BOTH shows currently showing there at once. I've been itching to see this production of Alan Plater's 1999 play 'Peggy For You' (which premiered at Hampstead Theatre) since I first heard about it, because it's got national treasure Tamsin Greig in it. But also, 'Folk', a new play with songs, sounds amazing: set in 1903, it focuses on Louie, a woman in rural Somerset who knows hundreds of folk songs, and a composer visiting from London who wants to transcribe them all. Click here for 'Folk' and here for 'Peggy For You'.

A Christmas Carol | The Playground Theatre | 21-23 Dec (pictured)
Given how much we go on about various adaptations of 'A Christmas Carol' here at TW Towers, I thought it was only fitting that our last tip of the year should be yet another. This is a one man version from the hugely talented solo-show veteran Guy Masterson, whose work we have followed and loved for years, especially up at the old edfringe, and will of course see him bringing to life all the fab characters that appear in Dickens' classic tale. "Guaranteed to get you into the Christmas Spirit - in many more ways than one!" boasts the blurb, and I can definitely concur. For more information, and to book tickets, head to The Playground Theatre website here.
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