Holiday Inspiration

Five of the Best: Christmas Shows in London

By Susan Ward Davies

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The Nutcracker at the Royal Opera House

With its ornate, gold-bedecked set, giant Christmas tree and dancers in the kind of elaborate costumes you dreamed of wearing when you were eight, The Nutcracker is the quintessential Christmas ballet. Set in elegant Edwardian England, and telling the tale of a young girl who is spirited away on Christmas Eve by a magician, the Nutcracker is magical escapism at its best. The Royal Ballet is guaranteed to do justice to this popular ballet, with its well-beloved Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Waltz of the Flowers. If you end up dragging along a reluctant partner, the opulent grandeur of the Royal Opera House - and its Champagne bar - should appease.

December 10th 2012 – January 5th 2013; Royal Opera House, Bow Street, London WC2E 9DD; 020 7304 4000; www.roh.org.uk/productions/the-nutcracker-by-peter-wright
Tickets from £10-£110

To be in with a chance of winning a pair of tickets to see The Nutcracker at a cinema near you just answer the following question:

Which famous composer wrote the music for the well-known ballet, The Nutcracker?

To enter, send your answer, name and contact details in an email to competitions@akauk.com and write ‘Royal Opera House’ in the subject line.

By entering this competition you are consenting to receive follow up information from the Royal Opera House.

Meow Meow’s Little Match Girl at the Southbank Centre

The weepy but beautiful tale of Hans Christian Andersen's Little Match Girl (she dies one cold Christmas night after her matches run out) is given a thorough shaking up by Australian cabaret star Meow Meow. The show was received with critical acclaim during its sold-out run at the Sydney Festival and, with Meow the helm, it will certainly be unique. Expect singing, torch light-serenades, dancing, fabulous costumes, dark humour and, of course, the staggering stage presence of Meow herself. “I'm passionate about the power of music to soothe and to arouse,” says Meow of the show’s moral message. “I want to want to make people laugh, I want to illuminate compassion. I want to change the world!”

December 13th – 30th; Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London SE1 8XX; southbankcentre.co.uk
Tickets from £15-£30

The Christmas Festival at the Royal Albert Hall

For evoking Christmas spirit, carols are up there with sparkly fairy lights, tinsel and the smell of mulled wine. If you need an excuse to take yourself to the iconic Royal Albert Hall, the let this be it. For the latter part of December the Christmas Festival will offer a line-up of classical music set in the domed splendour of the Victorian concert hall. Highlights include the King’s College Choir (December 19th), a rendition of Handel’s Messiah by a 500-voice strong choir (December 14th, 15th) and Carols by Candlelight with the Mozart Festival Chorus and Mozart Festival Orchestra (December 22nd).

December 13th – 24th; Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Gore, London SW7 2AP; 0845 401 5045; www.royalalberthall.com/
Tickets £12.50-£140

Camp As Christmas at The Roundhouse

For tongue-in-cheek entertainment that is every bit as silly as pantomime, but slightly more left-field, gay icon Scottee will be hosting a variety showcase at The Roundhouse. The line -up will include assorted purveyors of campness such as the winner of Baghdad's Got Talent, lip syncher extraordinaire Nando Messias, tap- dance queen Josephine Shaker and poetry slammer Cheryl Dole. It’s pure, non-intellectual, slapstick humour, but it’s impossible not to warm to larger- than- life performance artist and drag queen Scottee, and, when you think about it, there is something rather camp about Christmas. Maybe it’s the tinsel?

December 13th – 22nd; The Roundhouse, Chalk Farm Road, London NW1 8EH; 0844 482 8008; www.roundhouse.org.uk
Tickets £15

Slava’s Snowshow at the Royal Festival Hall

Despite initial appearances, Slava’s Snowshow is, in fact, as suited for adults as it is for children. There’s a dark thread that runs throughout the dreamlike show, which combines mournful clowns, stunning imagery (think ethereal sets and beautiful lighting) and whimsical vignettes. Only on the surface is this show for children (which is not to say they won’t be there in droves, or that they won’t enjoy it), and Russian clown Slava Polunin has indeed stated that his aim was to give adults back their sense of childlike wonder. When the grand finale arrives, with its blinding lights, paper blizzard and thunderous Carmina Burana, you have to be hard-hearted not to sense a tingle of that wonder again.

December 17th – January 7th; Royal Festival Hall, Belvedere Road, London SE1 8XX; 0844 847 9910; www.slavasnowshow.co.uk
Tickets £20-£65

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