The Worst Witch

Royal & Derngate, Northampton, 27 November-30 December. Then touring.

Expect toil and trouble for Mildred Hubble, hapless student at Miss Cackle’s Academy for Witches, in a world premiere based on Jill Murphy’s books that promises music, illusions and kitten puppets. Emma Reeves, lead writer on the CBBC adaptation, has written a new story for the over-sevens that also revisits moments from the novels. It’s staged by Theresa Heskins, who has bewitched audiences for years with festive shows, especially as artistic director at Newcastle-under-Lyme’s New Vic, where her Wind in the Willows runs this Christmas.

The Showstoppers’ Christmas Kids Show!

Leicester Square Spiegeltent, London, 2-30 December.

If the odd festive game of charades isn’t enough for you, head for the gleaming Spiegeltent, where this offshoot of the Olivier award-winning sensation (aimed at the over-sixes) is setting up camp for December. A team of musical improv elves will be hard at work to bring to life the young audience’s Christmas wishes – providing they’re requesting silly stories and zany songs. A show that knows kids are really in control at Christmas.

A treat … Le Gateau Chocolat in Duckie.
A treat … Le Gateau Chocolat in Duckie. Photograph: Alexis Dubus


Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff, 20-31 December.

Le Gateau Chocolat is a treat year-round, but this is a good time to catch the extravagantly talented cabaret artist’s first show for children. Ruffling the feathers of Hans Christian Andersen’s well-worn Ugly Duckling, his version for over-threes adds songs from The Lion King and the Pussycat Dolls along with a show-stopping Pure Imagination from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. The broodingly lit stage, littered with junk shop finds, is a world away from multicoloured panto-land.

The Cat in the Hat

Curve, Leicester, 8 December-12 January.

Katie Mitchell’s foray into kids theatre was inspired by reading Dr Seuss to her daughter. Almost 10 years after its premiere at the National, it’s still surprising to find the adaptation on her CV sandwiched between the Crimps and Strindbergs. Suba Das directs this new staging (for the over-fours), designed by Isla Shaw. Nana Amoo-Gottfried is the nattily dressed kitty unleashing havoc, accompanied by blue-haired mischief-makers Thing 1 and Thing 2.

A new plot in this Reign of Terror adventure ... The Scarlet Pimpernel.
A new plot in this Reign of Terror adventure ... The Scarlet Pimpernel. Photograph: Rah Petherbridge

The Scarlet Pimpernel

The Egg, Bath, 6 December-13 January.

Few theatres look as effortlessly festive as the shiny, bright red auditorium of the Egg. And very few host such consistently cracking kids theatre. Pins and Needles new show is for children over six (or younger “if of a brave disposition”), and it gives the hoary Reign of Terror adventure what it’s always needed: a new plot about French poodles pining to escape to England.

Robin Hood

The Watermill theatre, Newbury, 15 November-5 January.

Writer and illustrator Laura Dockrill has already created a winning heroine in her series of books featuring springy-haired 10-year-old Darcy Burdock. Now she turns her attention to Nottinghamshire’s most famous son, reinventing him as a female outlaw played by musician and character comic Georgia Bruce. While you can find Robin Hood on home turf this year in Nottingham Playhouse’s panto, Dockrill’s forest adventure (for children aged four and up) will be a good fit for this picturesque rural playhouse.

Edinburgh’s Christmas: You Choose

Festival Square, Edinburgh, 30 November-5 January.

Nick Sharratt and Pippa Goodhart’s picture book You Choose is a bedtime classic crammed with so many ideas for kids to create their own adventure that you may never get them to sleep. Nonsense Room Productions, who have previously staged Sharratt’s Shark in the Park, present an hour-long interactive version full of games and challenges and aimed at children aged two to seven.

The Forest of Forgotten Discos!

Hope Mill theatre, Manchester, 11-23 December.

Jackie Hagan is a working-class theatre-maker and amputee whose touring show This Is Not a Safe Space offers an unflinching, anarchic account of disability benefit cuts. For her rather wonderfully named family show, co-presented by Manchester’s theatre for young people, Contact, she takes a realistic scenario of domestic disruption and adds a blast of glitter and fantasy as Red runs away from home to bump into three bears (that’s Bear Minimum, Bear Hug and Bear Grills). There’s creative integration of British Sign Language at every performance. For ages five and up.

Hansel & Gretel

The Place, London, 15-24 December, and touring.

To quote from one of their shows, Uchenna Dance hook audiences into a mighty groove and choreographer Vicki Igbokwe promises tasty beats in her version of the gingerbread-house caper. In this modern dance-theatre version for the over-fives – composed by Kweku Aacht and written by Gbolahan Obisesan – the heroes get lost in the city, not the woods. Many festive kids shows are billed as a celebration of the imagination but few will get their young audience waacking and voguing like this.

Return to Elm House

Battersea Arts Centre, London, 1-30 December.

BAC’s Christmas show is inspired by local hero Jeanie Nassau Senior, a 19th-century campaigner, social reformer and pioneering civil servant dubbed the “first woman in Whitehall”. Senior lived in Elm House which once stood on the site of the arts centre, where children (aged six and over) will be given full run of the building on an immersive quest in search of clues to bring back her story.


Chris Wiegand

The GuardianTramp

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