It's not all panto...
Now my family has grown up and I don’t have to see kiddie-friendly pantos, I tend to give them a bit of a wide berth and go instead to the alternative, adult, entertainment available.
In fact it's fair to say that I look forward more to seeing the panto at Above the Stag than anything else about "the season". It is (rightly) hugely popular and never disappoints so I book as soon tickets go on sale and the date becomes sacrosanct, a beacon of light at the far end of the electronic diary.
I have been waiting to see their Dick Whittington—A New Dick in Town! since first booking it in February 2020 so it has been a long time coming and I am poised to explode with enthusiasm as the date finally approaches.
As it happens, there are a lot of Dicks about this Christmas, and I can't get enough. For the last couple of days, I have been trying to book TuckShop's second all drag West End panto Dick Whittington but the web site for which I have vouchers is not playing the game.
I might have to go to Corby for their first ever drag pantomime Sleeping Beauty and forgo my second chance at Dick. Or perhaps go to both, who says you can't have your figgy pudding and eat it.
Shows that I have managed to book include The Rhythmics whose creatives include the talented Ben Glasstone, The Prince of Egypt, and Police Cops The Musical.
If there were enough days in the week then I would also squeeze in raucous festive romp 21 Round For Christmas at The Hope Theatre because I know how that feels, New Old Friends' A Christmas Getaway at Theatre Royal Bath because their podcasts cheered me up in lockdown, and Wilf at Edinburgh's Traverse because it sounds great. Oh yes, and another visit to Pride & Prejudice* (*Sort Of) which I loved, and definitely deserves a second viewing.
I love a musical and would also take a trip to Sheffield's Crucible to see She Loves Me and The Mill at Sonning for Top Hat, with Black British retelling of The Wiz at Hope Mill Theatre for something more contemporary.
If you're more of a cabaret person then, like me, you might want to eschew the celebrity sings silent night schtick and go to Garden Theatre's Boys in the Buff, now indoors at Drayton Arms Theatre and with a with a 'clothing optional performance for everyone'. Alternatively there's canine cabaret, Dog Show, or a cabaret-filled Christmas soirée, The Grotteaux, hosted by the award-winning Lilly Snatchdragon.
If Christmas isn't Christmas for you without a bit of that Claus-is-coming-thing you could let Phantom John Owen-Jones jingle your bells; he is touring and has released an album of festive songs.
Talking of tours, if you like to start early you could still catch The Return of The Jinkx & DeLa Holiday Show, LIVE! which is on the road until 23 November, whilst for semi-dressed young women with feathers and sparkly shoes, yes really!, there's a trip to be made to the Norfolk village of Thursford for the Thursford Christmas Spectacular. As my Sheringham friend would say, "normal for Norfolk".
Of course Christmas is not all about glitz and glam and, when you want a break from tossing your cranberries or have young people to entertain, rock musical Artaban based on the book The Other Wise Man by Henry van Dyke has four performances at The Actors Church, Canal Café Theatre is showing twisted fairy tale A Wicked Tale, and Philip Pullman’s The Book of Dust – La Belle Sauvage has been adapted by Bryony Lavery for The Bridge.
The world première of Julian Clary’s adaptation of his best-selling book The Bolds is on at the Unicorn, the Wizard of Oz meets Black Panther in Theatre Peckham’s The Wonderful, and at the Little Angel Theatre, There May Be A Castle.
Charles Court Opera’s Beowulf: and Epic Panto at King's Head Theatre has family-friendly as well as adult only performances, Chickenshed is busy offering EverAfter—A mixed up fairy tale, Christmas Planet Play and Christmas Tales!, and Park Theatre has Five Little Christmas Monkeys.
(From London) go west for The Story Museum in Oxford and Suddenly A Star, north for The Watermill which has scheduled a pyjama performance for its run of The Jungle Book, and go over the border to Glasgow's Tron for Olive The Other Reindeer.
Whilst you're there, for real Christmas magic, there's the Edinburgh International Magic Festival also known as MagicFest and if you've lost your festive tubers, you will find The Enormous Christmas Turnip at the Festival Theatre Studio.
Back for the adults, blissfully devoid of all festive references is Bush Theatre's production of Fair Play which looks at the underside of women’s athletics, Alan Plater’s Peggy For You starring Tamsin Greig at Hampstead Theatre, and possibly the world première of Mike Bartlett’s Mrs Delgado which can be found at Oxford's Old Fire Station.