With the gates of Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland well and truly open and Regent Street decorated in the traditional theme of the '12 days of Christmas', that "Oh yes it is / Oh no he isn't" brand of show business will inevitably dominate stages all over the capital for at least the next month. But wait: "Oh, maybe they won't", because this winter, many of London's theatres are offering some genuinely unique performances in place of the traditional pantomime, giving tourists and Londoners alike the chance to experience a Christmas tradition, but with a twist.
From a Boy George musical in London's South East, to South American experimental dance at the Roundhouse, London's festive theatre season is all set to bring the capital to light, but with much more than tinsel and snow-in-a-can to the job.
Slava's Snowshow, (London's Southbank from Monday 17th December - Monday 7th January), has delighted and thrilled audiences in over 80 cities around the globe with its dream-like world that touches both the heart and funny bone. Culminating in a breathtaking blizzard that leaves its audience knee-deep in snow, Russian performance artist, Slava Polunin's fantastic extravaganza has the perfect blend of festive spirit and heightened spectacle that is in with the clown and out with the flailing celebrity dressed in a pantomime Dick Whittington costume. Breathtaking stage effects and hilarious scenes of clowning around makes Slava's Snowshow one of Skiddle's top recommendations for the festive season. See Slava's Snowshow listings
The Roundhouse is also offering up some quite diverse performances this winter, providing theatre-goers with something quite unique: from the creators of the game-changing 'De La Guarda', Fuerzabruta is a series of ravishing images of bliss and alienation and is a sensual and sensory onslaught, where worlds collide, dreams are real and reality takes a back seat. With its mind-blowing visual effects and Gaby Kerpel’s throbbing score, it’s a visceral celebration of the human spirit that is as imposing as it is subtle. Returning for its second year, and running from 27th December -26th January, Diqui James' Argentinean creation will make the Roundhouse a place of fantasy and escape, offering much more than mere festive spirit and good tidings. Its grandiosity and beauty will leave audiences with memories that will long surpass Christmas and the coming of the New Year. roundhouse.org.uk/fuerzabruta
Scottee's Camp (As Christmas), also being staged at the Roundhouse this Christmas is a special festive edition of Scottee’s infamous variety showcase that pays homage to a forgotten era of light entertainment, full of TV rip offs and clichés plus Scottee’s own quest to become top of the Christmas pops! A more festive feel than some of the other performances mentioned, and perhaps a little panto-esque in places, Scottee's Camp (As Christmas) should be a real laugh a minute, full to the brim with stereotypes, clichés and a whole load of parodying. For audiences looking for the fun of a pantomime, with a slightly different edge, this could be right up that street. roundhouse.org.uk/camp-as-christmas
Following a sell-out run at the National Theatre last winter, the internationally acclaimed The Animals and Children Took to the Streets, by award-winning company 1927 returns. The Bayou is a part of the city feared and loathed, wherein lies the infamous Bayou Mansions: a stinking sprawling tenement block, where curtain-twitchers and peeping-toms live side by side, and the wolf... is always at the door. When Agnes Eaves and her daughter arrive late one night, the question is: does it signal hope in this hopeless place, or has the real horror only just begun? Seamlessly synchronising live music, performance and storytelling with stunning film and animation, The Animals and Children is a theatrical journey of startling originality, like a giant graphic novel that bursts into life in front of the audiences very eyes, and for that reason and its family friendly nature, it makes the list of London's top, alternate productions for the festive season. nationaltheatre.org.uk
It doesn't stop there, with Meow Meow's Little Match Girl also taking to the stages of the Southbank between the 13th and 30th of December; Taboo: The Boy George Musical currently running at the Brixton Clubhouse; and Zippo's Cirque Beserk running at Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland as we speak.
With a little digging and enough Christmas cheer to try something new, London is offering theatre- goers a whole host of Christmas treats to feast upon that would make Christmas 2012 in the capital a truly memorable experience - providing that the Mayan apocalypse doesn't occur of course... perhaps there is an alternate Christmas show in there somewhere, too... hmmm?
Words: Russell Cook
Find loads more Christmas events and shows in our London Christmas Guide