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12 alternative festive shows

Hate panto? Feast your eyes on these 12 alternative festive shows without a boo, hiss or ‘he’s behind you!’ in sight across Berkshire and beyond.

The panto brigade comes out in full force over the Christmas period armed with flirty dames, C-listers and often a big dollop of double entendres and cheesy quips. If you fancy passing on this year’s offering then book yourself a ticket to one of these alternative productions that are have made it onto the Good List… , just no winkle pickers, stripy tights and tons of greasepaint. Well, you can’t have it all dearie.


The Prince & The Pauper, Watermill Theatre Bagnor, Thu 14 Nov – Sun 5 Jan 2019

The Watermill Theatre christmas show The prince and The Pauper – prince edward tied up by two sisters

The Watermill Theatre is renowned for its high quality bookish Christmas shows – and this year it’s The Prince & The Pauper. It’s a superb alternative to panto. So don’t expect a camp, thigh slapping prince. It’s a funny, fearless, musical and brilliant family entertainment, that’s always a treat at Crimbo.


The Bear, Norden Farm Maidenhead, Tue 26 Nov – Sun 29 Dec

THe Bear Norden Farm Puppet of a polar bear theatrical version of Raymond Briggs story

From the author who had us ‘Walking in the air…’ and Aled Jones reaching pre-teen musical highs, that only dogs could hear, But Raymond Briggs wasn’t a one-hit wonder, he wrote many children’s stories including The Bear – a story of a little girl who befriends a mischievous polar bear. It’s got all the warm and fuzzies to be a festive classic.


Hansel & Gretal, South Street Arts Reading, Tue 3 – Mon 30 Dec

Hansel and Gretal South Street Arts – eerie house in bleak woods surrounded by mist

The multi-award-winning theatre company, Reading Between The Lines, is back with Hansel & Gretel. Two children lost in the forbidden forest, lured to a creepy cottage by the smell of sweets. Nothing to scary about that… NOT. A childhood classic, given a fresh and imaginative twist.


Singin In The Rain, Mill at Sonning, Sat 30 Nov – Sat 8 Feb

Singin In The Rain Mill at Sonning Berkshire – illustration of umbrellas with title

The Mill at Sonning is bringing Hollywood to Berks. Sadly not a George Clooney one man show, although I’d be front row, for sure, but Singing In The Rain, this year’s Christmas musical. All tickets before 23 Dec include a festive buffet and from Boxing Day onwards a delish two-course meal. First person to spy George and Amal wins Christmas at the Clooneys (joke, obvs).


A Christmas Carol, Wokingham Theatre, Wed 4 – Sat 14 Dec

It’s Dickens but not as you know it. This is a fun, fresh and lively adaptation of the Christmas classic. A story of second chances – there’s always another day and  you can write a brand-new page tomorrow. All the festive feels and a healthy reminder not to be stingy with your gifts.


An Even More Crayola Christmas, Purple Turtle Reading, Tue 3 Dec

An Even More Crayola Christmas drag queen dressed as sexy santa

Hot on the heels of two sell out shows for the Reading Fringe Festival and the Pussy’s Bow Pride Party, Crayola is back in town for another round of top notch drag buffoonery, but be warned: the festive season has her feeling camper than ever! With a full, hour-long show, this songstress and lip-sync clown will make this the most wonderful time of the year, with a dragged up twist!


Romeo & Juliet, Progress Theatre Reading, Wed 11 – Sat 14 Dec 

Who needs the faint tinkle of sleigh bells when you can enjoy your bickering family at full volume. It’s a Christmas tale as old as Shakespeare. I can’t think of a more perfect time to see the iconic Romeo & Juliet.


Christmas Time Travellers, Broad Street and Station forecourt Reading, various dates

Bell and Bullock Christmas Time Travellers

Part of Magical Christmas in Reading’s Living Advent Calendar.  Having just arrived from their Victorian Christmas celebrations of 1888 and very much in the mood to share it with all, Professor Weft and Ms. Warp perambulate and play carols in their incredible contraption, an H. G. Wells style Time Machine.


The Hundred Watt Club – Festive Burlesque, Norden Farm Maidenhead, Sat 21 Dec

Have you been naughty or nice this year? Hundred Watt Club’s gift to you is this hot toddy of a show, jam packed full of festive burlesque, cabaret, circus and drag acts. If you like your Winter nights bawdy and a little bit naughty, this is for you! No rummaging in the stockings, you’ll get arrested.



Cinderella on Ice, Wycombe Swan, Wed 27 Nov – Sun 1 Dec

You shall go to ball! Wycombe Swan turns its stage in to an ice rink for world renowned Russian Ice Stars’ performance of Cinderella on Ice. This actually looks amazing – check out the video as it will give you a real flavour for it – with high voltage skating, beautiful staging and more triple salchows than the Olympics (um, nearly).


A Christmas Carol, The Old Vic London, Sat 23 Nov – Sat 16 Jan

The_cast_of_A_Christmas_Carol_at_The_Old_Vic woman ringing bell wearing black overcoat and hat

This production of festive classic A Christmas Carol staged by The Old Vic’s artistic director Matthew Warchus had such great reviews last year that it’s returning for round two. Adapted by Jack Thorne, co-writer of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. 8+ it stars Paterson Joseph (Peep Show, Babylon) as Ebenezer Scrooge.


Peter Pan Goes Wrong, Alexandra Palace, Fri 13 Dec – Sun 5 Jan

Assuredly NOT a panto, this West End production (it showed at the Apollo Theatre in 2015 & 2016) comes to Ally Pally, promising a riotous spin on JM Berries’s classic tale. From the creators of award-winning The Play That Goes Wrong and The Comedy About A Bank


Nativity! The Musical, The Eventim Apollo, London, Wed 11 – Sun 29 Dec

Nativity made the leap from film to Christmas show in a touring production in 2017 – now it’s back again for the third round. Great cast for this one including the return of father and daughter duo Dani and Danny Dyer, plus Rylan Clarke-Neal and Sharon Osbourne. West End star Simon Lipkin will also reprise his role as Mr Poppy. I saw a version in Oxford last year and it was hilarious and heartwarming (even without the star cast), so this is bound to be brilliant. Proper feel good family theatre. Tickets here.

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