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10 theatre & panto shows to book now

Fancy a festive family show? Enter stage left, my roundup of the best virtual and in-person productions this month.

IN PERSON: The Gingerbread Man, Theatre Royal, Plymouth, Tues 8 Dec – 9 Jan 

‘Stuff and Nonsense’ use a mix of puppetry, live-action, music and stunning staging for this exciting retelling of a well loved tale for anyone aged 3 and up but apparently you should run run as fast as you can if you want to get tickets for this gingerbread man!

IN PERSON: Treasure Island, Exeter Northcott, Weds 9 Dec – 9 Jan

Join Exeter’s favourite funny men Le Navet Bete for a swashbuckling family comedy featuring swashbuckling pirates, tropical islands and an apparently unforgettable mermaid….

VIRTUAL: Raymond Briggs’ Father Christmas, Tobacco Factory Theatres, Weds 9 – Thurs 24 Dec

Photo Richard Lakos

A grumpy but loveable Father Christmas gets ready for his busiest day of the year. The show, with fab puppets and terrific tunes, has been a regular at the Hammersmith Lyric for years but this production has been specifically designed to be watched in your own home (and as many times as you like for the duration of the run). Age 8 and under.

IN PERSON: Robinson Crusoe, Theatre Royal, Plymouth, Sat 12 Dec – Sun 3 Jan

Isn’t 2020 the perfect time to be marooned on a desert island? This new production has been created especially for this Christmas and it promises the traditional fun and laughter we expect from the Theatre Royal, this year featuring Les Dennis and Simon Webbe. All-in-one act and socially distanced.

IN PERSON: A Christmas Carol, Queen’s Theatre, Barnstaple, Thurs 17 – Sat 19 Dec

The Dickens classic served up 2020-style, with Jason Merrells of Emmerdale and Waterloo Road fame portraying a unique vision of Scrooge, seen through the eyes of an NHS doctor battling Covid. Family ticket offer: book 4 tickets and save £10.

DRIVE IN: Horrible Histories Drive-In Panto, Exeter Racecourse, Fri 18 Dec 

Christmas isn’t cancelled after all, fun and laughter with festive fun and silliness from the safety of your car.

ONLINE THEATRE: Living Spit’s Beauty and the Beast, Bristol Old Vic, Fri 18 Dec – 9 Jan

Disney-defying version of the classic French tale about what it means to be truly beautiful in the 18th century. Age 12+

IN PERSON: The Wizard of Oz, The Corn Exchange, Exeter, Sat 19 Dec – Sun 3 Jan

After last year’s show received glowing reviews, Exeter’s favourite double-act, Matt Finegan and Daniel Page, will return as Glinda and the Wicked Witch, alongside another top-quality West End professional cast, yet reassuringly local. This show is 75 minutes long with no interval, so good for short attention spans.

IN PERSON: Gareth Gates Christmas Cracker, Queens Theatre, Barnstaple, Mon 21 – Thurs 31 Dec

Festive fun for the whole family, even if they are too young to remember the original Pop Idol Gareth. Singers, comedians and circus stars will be celebrating the very best in variety and panto.

IN PERSON: Buttons, Palace Theatre, Paignton, Thurs 31 Dec

Despite the difficulties facing theatre this year one man is single handedly trying to keep the magic of Panto alive. Ten minutes into what should have been Cinderella, Buttons (Tom Binns) realises he’s on his own as the rest of the cast have been furloughed. Bernie Clifton who has been mentoring Tom in real life takes a turn as Fairy Godmother. How retro.

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