Songs, silliness and snow: the best family Christmas shows in Hackney and Islington

cat in the hat

cat in the hat - Credit: Archant

There’s a wealth of all singing all dancing family entertainment across Hackney and Islington this Christmas. Bridget Galton rounds up the festive fun.

Little Match Girl

Little Match Girl - Credit: Archant

Two very different adaptations of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol play in Islington Theatres this Christmas.

Ebenezer Scrooge and his spectral visitors are conjured up at The Old Red Lion by six actors who relay the festive tale with song, sound effects and physical movement.

Neil Bartlett’s bold theatrical re-working uses only Dickens’ words to put over a chilling story of ghosts, greed and goodwill. It runs from December 10 until January 3.

Meanwhile at The Pleasance theatre, Let Them Call It Mischief offers up a slapstick reimagining of the timeless Christmas classic as a cast of seven – aided by a revolving stage and eccentric costumes - take on more than 40 characters in a fast and funny romp.

A Christmas Carol at the Old Red Lion

A Christmas Carol at the Old Red Lion - Credit: Archant

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Expect silly not serious entertainment for ages 8 up. December 9 until January 4. 020 7609 1800

More Victorian misery looms in celebrated choreographer Arthur Pita’s acclaimed dance theatre adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s haunting The Little Match Girl

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This magical, inventive show follows the hopes and dreams of a cold and hungry little girl trying to sell matches on a snowy New Year’s Eve.

Striking her last matches to keep warm, she sees visions of cosy hearths, feasts and her beloved dead grandmother as she leaves her troubled life behind and flies to the moon.

With original score performed live by composer Frank Moon, it is suitable for ages 5 up and runs at the Lilian Baylis Studio in Rosebery Avenue from December 13 until January 4.

Meanwhile in the main Sadler’s Wells auditorium, Islington-based choreographer Matthew Bourne returns with his moving adaptation of Tim Burton’s movie Edward Scissorhands. December 2 until Jan 11. Both shows can be booked on 0844 412 4322 or

Altogether jollier is Katie Mitchell’s acclaimed production of the mischievous rhyming The Cat in The Hat, which brilliantly recreates the primary coloured-aesthetic of Dr Seuss’s surreal world.

First produced at the National Theatre in 2009, the show – featuring home-alone siblings who are visited by a crazy feline one rainy afternoon, sold out at this year’s Edinburgh Festival and runs at The Pleasance from December 8 until January 4 suitable for ages 3 and up.

A more adult entertainment runs at Wilton’s Music Hall in E1, where Spymonkey’s specially commissioned affectionate parody foregrounds Sherlock Holmes’ long-suffering housekeeper.

Mrs Hudson’s Christmas Corker takes audiences below stairs at 221B Baker Street in a riotous production that contrasts daily domestic routine with the melodrama of Conan Doyle’s The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle. Featuring magicians, music hall, ventriloquists and a death defying finale. 02077022789.

The Almeida Theatre’s offering swerves festivity altogether with Rupert Goold’s inventive production of The Merchant of Venice, originally staged at the RSC.

Starring former Almeida artistic director Ian McDiarmid as Shylock it’s relocated to Las Vegas in a whirlwind of glitter, gambling and greenbacks.

Traditional panto is on offer at The Park Theatre, Finsbury Park with an original version of Jack and the Beanstalk co-authored by artistic director Jez Bond.

Running from November 27 until January 4 it is set in the land of the giants where evil inventor Ms Grimm is intent on world domination, pitted against her own daughter and peaceful but poor hero Jack. Expect contemporary gags, original songs and plenty of audience participation.

More fruity, bijou panto can be found at The Rosemary Branch where the now legendary annual outing by Charles Court Opera this year mixes smut, high opera and pop music in the story of Billy The Kid.

Saddle up for whip crackin’ fun bar room brawls and belting musical numbers from Calamity Dame and the cowboys. This versatile “panto western” boasts both adults only performances and child-friendly matinees.

Shepperton Road N1 from November 28 until January 10.

Finally youngsters can explore a warren of atmospherically transformed rooms in the basement of Shoreditch Town Hall as part of Shunt artists’s Nigel Barrett and Louise Mari’s Christmas grotto. Kids join Santa’s elves on an adventure through a secret magical portal before meeting Father Christmas and recieving a present. The 45minute show costs £10 per child with two free adults accompanying. Nigel and Louise’s Basement Grotto runs from December 12 until December 24 and there are also late nights for adults only.

Bookings at

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