Not in front of the children

There is no denying the impact of a jolly panto on the developing mind.

"Tarto, Tarto, red as a tomato" sang my family for years after hearing the song in a panto at Greenwich Theatre.

Tarto, the five-finned red fish, not only gave rise to a fondly remembered earworm but inveigled his way into our house and lived in our fresh water aquarium for years in one form or another. For years, as successive fish came and went, they were all baptised Tarto as they entered the tank.

It is said that Christmas is a time for children and now that our offspring have long passed the age where they can be bought fluffy light-up wands, I am having something of a Prince Charming interregnum.

More than ever, I am staying away from traditional family pantomimes, not least because of the wide range of alternatives available. Of course I have always enjoyed a musical whatever the season and the festive period brings these out in numbers whether the wardrobe includes Santa hats or not.

But in the festive days ahead I will especially revel in the potty-mouthed pantos embellished with an unorthodox twist, traditional fairy tales made untraditional and Christmas stories served with a dollop of bar humbug or a darkly comic edge.

So, from me it's a loud hooray with double jingle bells for all those venues across the land who are offering revolutionary Rapunzels, dirty dames and tarnished buttons.

How To Catch A Krampus, Pleasance Islington, London (18+)

International drag collective Sink The Pink presents a dark and terrifying twist on the traditional Christmas theatre with the scandalous exploits of a part-time spirit medium / full-time con-artist, starring Ginger Johnson and drag legend Lavinia Co-Op.

Buttons: A Cinderella Story opens 23 November, King’s Head Theatre, London (18+ and family version)

Charles Court Opera’s boutique pantomime has turned things around; with a villainous Prince, a Fairy Godfather, and an extra special helping of mischief, this show comes in two flavours: spicy adult only performances and funny fudge family matinées.

The Crumple Zone opens 24 November, King’s Head Theatre, London

LAMBCO Productions is in the late-night slot with this Christmas comedy by Buddy Thomas which has four friends and a mystery visitor together in one New York apartment.

The Boy Under The Christmas Tree opens 11 December, King’s Head Theatre, London

The beautiful youth that has appeared under your Christmas tree doesn't know how he got there or what his name is, or where he came from. (Late night slot.)

Tinderella (an adult panto) opens 5 December, The Canal Café Theatre, London (18+)

In this all-singing, all-dancing, smut-ridden panto, there's romance afoot as Ella swipes right and goes on a date with Roger... to Nando’s.

Jack Off The Beanstalk opens 1 December, The Space at Studio 88, London (18+)

New West End cabaret venue The Space launches with adult panto Jack Off The Beanstalk with YouTuber Doug Armstrong as Jack. Can Jack be the hero when the villainous Fleshlight kidnaps the Princess?

All Star Brexit Cabaret 17 December, Coliseum, London

Drag superstar Jonny Woo presents his view on Brexit, ditching boring statistics and political rhetoric and lampooning the referendum, all to a score by Richard Thomas with a cast that includes Jayde Adams as Boris Johnson, Le Gateau Chocolat as Nigel Farage and Sooz Kempner as David Cameron.

Cinderella: A Wicked Mother of a Night Out! touring to Derby, London, Reading, Salford

This is an immersive show that "will have you laughing your baubles off". Imagine a panto where Tarantino meets Shameless, meets ELF—in your local pub.

Briefs: Close Encounters, Spiegeltent Leicester Square, London (16+, daytime family show)

Boylesque rules as the Briefs boys blend and bend the rules with a show featuring circus, drop dead gorgeous drag, raucous comedy and trademark punkish swagger.

In the children’s show, Brat Kids Carnival, the Brief boys get youngsters excited about circus and getting on stage; this plays during the day.