London’s best pantomimes 2022 to book now, from McKellen’s Mother Goose to Robin Hood at Greenwich

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he season has come upon us – oo-er missus! – and theaters across London are ringing to the sound of thousands of tiny voices yelling “He’s behind you!” with a sugar-fueled mania that would terrify an army. To help you navigate London’s panto landscape, we’ve rounded up all the best ones. Oh yes, we have.

Mother Goose

Hackney Empire

riscilla the Goose (Ruth Lynch) and Mother Goose (Clive Rowe)

/ Manuel Harlan

Clive Rowe is identical with Hackney Empire’s panto – there’s nothing like his lady – and in his 15th year in the role, he’s also directing. Mother Goose is a special show for Rowe, as it was the part that bagged him a nomination at the 2009 Oliver Awards, the only panto dame ever nominated. Hackney’s panto is a London institution that has built its audience from a few hundred when Rowe started, to packing the 1,200-seat theater out each year.

To December 31; buy tickets here

Jack and the Beanstalk

Lyric Hammersmith

The panto favorite is back, with the cows, magic beans, climbing plants and gruesome giant all present and correct. This production also promises “extreme skateboarding, milk explosions, singing cows, some absolutely outrageous outfits and of course Beyoncé”, so clearly bringing something else to the party too. Leah St Luce, who has starred in Mamma Mia!, Beautiful – The Carole King Musical and The Lion King, plays Jack and the show is co-written by rising star of the British theater scene, Jude Christian. We can’t wait for this one.

To January 7; buy tickets here

Cinderella

Theater Royal Stratford East

Gigi Zahir (Cleopatra) and Gracie McGonigal (Cinderella)

/ Michael Wharley

Theater Royal says its pantos tear up the rule book, to make these classic stories relevant to its community and beyond. This year’s take on Cinderella has moved the story to Ancient Egypt with and appearance from Cleopatra. Robert Hyman is once again writing the tunes, and is joined by Leo Butler, a playwright whose work has been staged at the Royal Court, the Almeida and the Royal Shakespeare Company. It is also promising three panto dames for the price of one, in the shape of the Wicked Stepmother and the two Mean-Girl Sisters.

To January 7; buy tickets here

Robin Hood

Greenwich Theater

Greenwich’s panto won an Off West End award in 2019 with Sleeping Beauty, and was nominated for another last year for The Queen of Hearts. In 2022, it aims to have audiences all-a-quiver with its own take on Robin Hood. It’s written by Anthony Spargo – who has appeared in Horrible Histories in the West End and even operated a Dalek in Doctor Who – and he is also playing the dastardly Sheriff of Nottingham.

To January 8; buy tickets here

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

New Wimbledon Theater

Ruthie Henshall

/ CRAIG SUGDEN

Ruthie Henshall is bringing a bit of West End stardust to Wimbledon, playing the Wicked Queen in Snow White – her panto debut. “Cannot believe it’s taken me this long. Up till now the only children I’ve scared are my own,” she said in her Instagram post sharing the news. Henshall – who made her West End debut in Cats in 1987 and has played Roxie Hart in Chicago and Mrs Wilkinson in Billy Elliot the Musical – is joined by Hannah Lowther, who went from posting TikTok videos during lockdown to a starring role in Heathers at the Other Palace.

December 3-31; buy tickets here

Goldilocks and the Three Bears

Richmond Theater

Matt Baker (that lovely bloke off Countryfile and The One Show) takes center stage in this tale that diverges from the original, rather creepy story. Goldilocks’ circus is under threat from an evil rival circus owner (capitalism, eh?) and, with the help of a selection of talented circus pals, they must battling to rescue their Big Top from ruin. Even with spectacular acrobatics, effects and magic tricks, all seems lost, until three brilliant bears join the gang…

December 3-31; buy tickets here

Little Red Robin Hood

Battersea Arts Center

Piers Allardyce

Theater company Sleeping Trees don’t stage traditional pantomimes, but specialize instead in the glorious panto mash-up. They’re back at the Battersea Arts Centre, after last year’s Sleeping Beauty and the Beast, bringing humour, singalongs and general anarchy, this time with a show called Little Red Robin Hood. With Nottingham in uproar after the dastardly Sheriff captures the famous outlaw, it falls to an entirely different character, Little Red Riding Hood, to save the day. The age guidance is from three years old, but this will have all punters chuckling.

December 6 to January 8; buy tickets here

sinderfella

Prince of Wales Drury Lane

Definitely not one for the kids, this raucous, riotous, fabulous and filthy version of the classic fairy tale, held appropriately above a pub (so technically in the West End, but…) is strictly for adults only. It promises to take all the traditional panto double entrendres your dad laughed at and triple them at the very least. With a hero billed as ‘Prince Donkey Dick of Soho’ it’s definitely short on subtlety… but who wants nuance at Christmas? Audiences on December 12 get the extra special treat of a guest appearance by none other than former Eastenders star Daniella Westbrook as the fairy godmother.

December 9-22, buy tickets here

Jack and the Beanstalk

London Palladium

Julian Clary

/ handout

Panto returned to the Palladium with a bang seven years ago, and has proved a huge, really quite grown-up hit ever since. Once again the great Julian Clary performs the master of ceremonies duties for this glitzy spectacular, squeezing out every bit of smut possible. Joining him is Dawn French, who made her Palladium panto debut in 2018’s Snow White, while this year’s debutant is Alexandra Burke as the giant’s villainous wife, Mrs Blunderbore. She will take her place alongside panto legends Nigel Havers, ventriloquist Paul Zerdin and Gary Wilmot. The marketing blurb says this is the panto you’ve bean waiting for. They may well be right.

December 10 to January 15; buy tickets here

Mother Goose

Duke of York’s

Clive Rowe once called Mother Goose “the Hamlet of panto” for a Dame, so who better to pick up the role in this touring production than Sir Ian McKellen? He’s joined by comedian John Bishop as husband Vic Goose, with the pair living a wholesome life running an Animal Sanctuary inside an abandoned Debenhams. Presenter Mel Giedroyc is the goose who flies in and upends their idyllic existence in this version of the tale written by Jonathan Harvey (Gimme Gimme Gimme; Beautiful Thing).

December 15 to January 29; buy tickets here

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