The Christmas season brings with it one of Britain's great (and unique) art forms: the pantomime. With dames and best boys, princesses, prince charmings and dastardly villains to hiss, a good panto is a must to raise the festive cheer. Following our pick of shows to book for kids, here's our recommendations for the London pantos – three Jack and the Beanstalks, three Cinderellas, two Aladdins and the, er, Odyssey – to enjoy...
Jack and the Beanstalk at the London Palladium
The biggest and glitziest of the capital's pantos returns to the Palladium for an eighth year. It is once again marshalled by Julian Clary, who was born for this show, and here plays seaman Smee (titter). He is joined by Jennifer Saunders as Captain Hook in an inspired bit of casting, as well as Nigel Havers, Louis Gaunt and, of course, the great Gary Wilmot as the Dame. This show prides itself on sparing no expense on sets and costumes and conjuring up a jaw-dropping spectacle.
From December 9 to January 14; palladiumpantomime.com
Aladdin at the Hackney Empire
The Hackney panto is one of the great annual east London traditions. For a second year it is directed by, and starring, the great Clive Rowe (the only performer to be Olivier nominated for playing a Dame), who will be playing Widow Twankey for the next month. Also starring Natasha Lewis as Abby-na-zaar, Fred Double as Aladdin and Ruth Lynch as the Spirit of the Ring, the show promises incredible costumes, uncontrollable laughter and "song-and-dance numbers that are nothing short of genie-us".
To December 31; buy tickets here
Cinderella at the Lyric Hammersmith
Get ready to have a ball in west London, courtesy of award winning panto writer and composer Vikki Stone. She brings Cinders (played by Tilly La Belle Yengo) into the present day, where she is a "bonafide boss-lady" running her own business in Shepherd's Bush Market. It's there she meets the dashing Prince Henry, in disguise and on the run from the paps, but of course there are a few bumps in the road to true love, including Cinderella's step-mother and step-sisters who are determined to derail the match. Fun, silly (obviously) and powered by pop, the Hammersmith panto is always a winner.
To January 6; buy tickets here
Jack and the Beanstalk at Theatre Royal Stratford East
Stratford East's riotous pantos are always full of outrageous characters, unique takes on classic tales and a lot of laughs. This year, Jack heads up the giant beanstalk to take on the baddie Giant Belch who steals all the villager's mud (destroying their once vibrant mud industry) charges outragous rents and pollutes the air with his... well let's just leave it at that. With a fantastic original score by Robert Hyman and written by Anna Jordan, this will no doubt be a real festive treat.
To January 6; stratfordeast.com
Snow White at the Greenwich Theatre
Mirror, mirror on the wall, don't miss the fairest pantomime of them all, runs the tagline, and it's hard to argue. The Greenwich panto is a classic of the genre, with the venue's long running panto baddie Anthony Spargo taking over writing duties this year. Nominated for Offie awards in 2021 and 2022, after winning in 2019, this is a Christmas show with pedigree.
To January 7; greenwichtheatre.org
Odyssey: A Heroic Pantomime at the Jermyn Street Theatre
The panto that has really torn the rule book up this festive season is at the small, but perfectly formed central-London venue, Jermyn Street Theatre. Taking the Odyssey as its jumping-off point, rather than a more traditional fairy tale, join a load of fantastical characters on a musical, mythical journey. Homer fans, look away now...
To December 31; jermynstreettheatre.co.uk
Dick Whittington at Richmond Theatre
Another great dame, this time in the form of comedian and broadcaster Paul Merton, who is playing Sarah the Cook in Dick Whittington in Richmond. He will be joined by comedian Suki Webster, musical theatre performer Wendy Mae Brown and West End star Vivien Parry, as Queen Rat. Dick Whittington (Jack Danson) heads out to find fame and fortune, but will he be able to free the city of revolting rodents and rise to high office as the Lord Mayor?
From December 9 to January 7; atgtickets.com
Cinderella at New Wimbledon Theatre
If anyone knows about how to bring the best moves to a ball, it's Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horward. He is also building on his caustic reputation as a talent show judge by playing Cinderella's wicked stepmother, giving audiences plenty of chances to boo and hiss to their hearts' content. Also appearing in this show, self-described as the "fairy godmother of all pantos", are Olivier nominated Alison Jiear (who once made the semi finals of Britain's Got Talent) and comedian and magician Pete Firman as Buttons. Daniel Norford, who has appeared at the National Theatre, is also in the cast.
From December 8 to January 7; atgtickets.com
Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Pig
JW3 is presenting the first Jewish pantomime, bringing together the great traditions of pantomime and Jewish storytelling. Another first is that it will even have a performance on Christmas day itself. It's Chanukah, and Little Red Riding Hood's village needs a new, affordable energy source. Will Red bring home the bacon? With an on-stage band playing traditional instruments accompanying songs with panto lyrics, it stars Debbie Chazen as the Dame, alongside comedian Josh Glanc as the Big Bad Pig.
From December 10 to January 7; jw3.org.uk
Cinderella at Brixton House
Sindi-Ella is struggling to keep her dad's greengrocer shop open on Brixton Lane in the face of a looming megamall, while her life is made a misery by her bougie step-mum and south London-hating step-sister. But a few streets away in a fancy new-build, social-media prodigy Charmz wants to build a connection outside their digital world. This is written by award-winning writer and performer Danusia Samal with music from Duramaney Kamara, aka D L K.
To December 31; brixtonhouse.co.uk
Jack and the Beanstalk at the Catford Broadway
Susie McKenna was such a staple of the Hackney Empire pantomime that this publication once dubbed her "the undisputed queen of London panto". She is now bringing her brand of joyful festive show to Catford with Jack and the Beanstalk. Jack, his mum and their cow are living in the kingdom of Lewishfarm where the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. Can Jack fulfil his destiny? Will his mum find love in the audience? Will Caroline the cow become a TikTok star? Head to Catford to find out.
From December 13-31; broadwaytheatre.org.uk
Aladdin at Fairfield Halls
Another show using the 'genie-us' tagline (hey, if it ain't broke...), the Croydon venue is staging an Aladdin of its own, led by EastEnders and Holby star Davood Ghadami, and Croydon local Kiera Nicole, a favourite of kid's Milkshake programming, as Jasmine.From December 16 to January 7; fairfield.co.uk