‘Tis the season to don your gladrags, pack some popcorn (or mini chocolate santas, perhaps) and skip off to a show – whether that be a theatrical adaptation of a favourite novel, an enchanting candlelit concert or a chuckle-inducing pantomime.
From films to musical performances, comedy shows to ballets, box offices across the country are revelling in the big return of theatre and cinema following the easing of Coronavirus restrictions.
Art galleries and historic houses too are flinging open their doors, displaying never-before-seen works and family-friendly attractions to engage even the smallest of visitors.
With such an array of festive spectacles on offer, we’ve rounded up the brandy crème de la crème of Christmas shows across the UK. But don’t just take our word for it, get browsing and booking – the proof is in the pudding…
Best theatre shows
The Ocean at the End of the Lane
This spellbinding adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s 2013 novel conjures the attempted take-over of the world by strange beings. First seen at the National in 2019, it deserves to match the success of their Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.
Duke of York’s, London WC2 (Telegraph Tickets), booking to Feb 12
A Christmas Carol
Sherlock star Mark Gatiss plays the ghost of Jacob Marley in his own inventive yet faithful version of the Dickens classic. Design and cast are top-notch. Adam Penford directs.
Nottingham Playhouse (nottinghamplayhouse.co.uk), until Nov 20; Alexandra Palace, London N22 (Telegraph Tickets), Nov 26-Jan 9
Matilda the Musical
Roald Dahl’s tale of a telekinetically gifted girl’s fightback against the forces of philistinism – as gloriously adapted for the RSC by Dennis Kelly and Tim Minchin in 2010 – feels as invigorating as ever.
Cambridge Theatre, London WC2 (Telegraph Tickets), booking to May 29
A Christmas Carol
Jack Thorne’s Tony Award-showered, carol-saturated adaptation, as directed by Matthew Warchus, returns, now with Stephen Mangan’s Scrooge adding a dash of sourness to its mince-pie sweetness.
Old Vic Theatre, London SE1 (oldvictheatre.com), Nov 13-Jan 18
Kander and Ebb’s 1966 classic gets a site-specific re-staging from director Rebecca Frecknall. Jessie Buckley, as Sally Bowles, and Eddie Redmayne’s louche Emcee ply their trade in a theatre transformed into the seedy Kit Kat Club.
Playhouse Theatre (theplayhousetheatre.co.uk), Nov 15-March 5
Life of Pi
A wonderful adaptation by Lolita Chakrabarti, with spellbinding puppetry and video wizardry, of the 2001 Yann Martel bestseller about an Indian boy and a Bengal tiger who get shipwrecked together in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
Wyndham’s Theatre, London WC2 (Telegraph Tickets), Nov 15-Feb 27
The Mousetrap of Christmas shows: almost three decades on from its first staging, Bill Alexander’s triumphant, wordless, dance-based adaptation of the Raymond Briggs story about a young boy who journeys to see Father Christmas with his snowman pal remains required viewing.
Peacock Theatre, London WC2 (Telegraph Tickets), Nov 20-Jan 2