It’s been a busy – and chilly – December at Northern Soul Towers. In the name of Christmas, our writers have travelled across the North of England to review the best of yuletide theatre. From magical children’s shows to cheeky panto and some right good alternative productions, we’ve got something for everyone, including those who might be a bit more ‘Bah Humbug’ than ‘Merry Christmas’. Feast your festive peepers on this lot.
The Book of Dragons, York Theatre Royal (showing until January 6, 2018)
First up, there’s a stage production of E. Nesbit’s The Book of Dragons at York Theatre Royal. A bare floor, some white stripes and a block might not sound much but, we can assure you, you’re in for a massive surprise. It’s “terrific”.
Panto season is back with bells on.
Dick Whittington, Manchester Opera House (showing until January 7, 2018)
Slightly cheeky, risqué bells if we’re talking about the hilarious and thoroughly entertaining five-star production of Dick Whittington at Manchester’s Opera House and featuring panto dream team The Krankies and John Barrowman (yes, you read that correctly). Our reviewer “howled with laughter” at this “truly magical” show.
Jack and the Beanstalk, York Theatre Royal (until February 3, 2018)
Jack and the Beanstalk is back at York Theatre Royal. An “absolute hoot”, this year’s show is “especially barmy”. It is Jack and the Beanstalk but not as you know it.
Aladdin, The Dukes, Lancaster (showing until January 16, 2018)
We also head to see panto fave – and a “truly spellbinding performance” – Aladdin, at The Dukes in Lancaster. The Dukes does what it does best and presents the audience with a clean sweep of the story while remaining faithful to the original.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, St Helens Theatre Royal (on until January 14, 2017)
A panto which “ticks all the boxes, but not in a routine way” with a brilliant version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at St Helens Theatre Royal.
The Secret Seven, Storyhouse, Chester (showing until January 14, 2018)
This production of Enid Blyton’s The Secret Seven at Chester’s Storyhouse is “great festive fun”.
We’ve not got one, but two productions of the Red Riding Hood tale.
First up, there’s Red Riding Hood and the Wolf at HOME in Manchester which was “Brothers Grimm for the 21st century, all friendship, acceptance and overcoming prejudice”.
Then there’s a five-star production of Little Red Riding Hood and The Big Bad Wolf at Z-arts in Manchester (now showing at The Brewery in Kendal until December 31, 2017, and Unity Theatre in Liverpool from January 17-18, 2018) which is “sheer bliss from beginning to end”.
Other productions include a five-star The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe at West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds, described by our reviewer as “a hugely inventive, wonderfully escapist and heart-warming flight of fantasy”.
Over in Sale, there’s a great production of The Bear at Waterside Arts Centre – a “lovely big cuddle of a show” – and a jolly adaptation of Raymond Briggs’ 1994 picture book (until January 6, 2018) and Alice in Wonderland at Newcastle’s Northern Stage (showing until January 6, 2018).
Dickens fan? We head to see A Christmas Carol at Bolton Octagon (showing until January 13, 2018). Although, be warned, it doesn’t remain steadfastly true to the original, but it’s certainly worth a visit.
The Lowry in Salford has brought out the big guns with a fantastic five-star production of Elf: The Musical (showing until January 14, 2018). Based on the 2003 comedy film Elf staring Will Ferrell and Zooey Deschanel, it’s the first time the show has ventured up North. Hilarious, bursting with a talent and full of more Christmas surprises than a Christmas stocking, it’s most certainly worth a gander
Christmas not your thing? Here are a few non-festive productions to tickle your fancy.
There’s a production of Guys and Dolls at Manchester’s Royal Exchange (showing until February 3, 2018) which is “bursting with such infectious dynamism and style that I defy anyone not to emerge with a great beaming smile on their face and joy in their hearts”, and a five-star production of Around the World in 80 Days at The Lowry in Salford (showing until January 7, 2018) which can “hold its own alongside any big bucks panto in terms of unalloyed entertainment”.
We also check out all-female cabaret show Hot Brown Honey at Manchester’s HOME (showing until December 23, 2017) – a five-star, all-singing, all dancing, all patriarchy-smashing powerhouse of a show.