Christmas show treats '18

There’s so much to see this festive season in Cambridge: Siobhan Godwood rounds up the shows that will get you feeling all Christmassy

5-31 December Snow White

New International Encounter, the team behind the Junction’s Beauty and the Beast in 2016 and Around the World in Eighty Days in 2014, brings another unique theatrical Christmas experience to Cambridge this year, with their interpretation of Snow White. “We’ve done three Christmas shows at the Junction, so we’re delighted to be back this year,” said Alex Byrne, Snow White’s director.

The production is of course based on the traditional fairy tale that we all know and love; but with a modern twist. The story offers a great opportunity to address modern dilemmas, with its themes of family conflict and the obsession with youth and beauty, embodied by the evil stepmother with her talking mirror and famous catchphrase, “who is the fairest of them all?”

“The show looks at what our idea of beauty is, and what we see when we look at ourselves in the mirror,” explains Alex. “That’s a big question in our contemporary world, and while we don’t want to get too serious in a fun family show, that’s an underlying issue in our production.” 

This version of Snow White will have plenty of drama, too, as the real appeal of the story, Alex believes, lies in its archetypal fairy-tale baddie, the evil stepmother. “That character is what really attracted me to this story,” says Alex. “She’s brilliantly scary in the grand tradition of wicked witches, and when we started doing our first workshops, that was one of the things that we had lots of fun with. It’s such a fantastic, timeless storyline – the ageing beauty who realises that her charms are fading, choked up with murderous envy of her young, gorgeous stepdaughter.”

The show is packed with comedy and rough and tumble action. While Snow White definitely isn’t a panto – there’s no cross-dressing, no pantomime dame, and no ‘he’s behind you!’ - it is a really fun, fast-paced adventure for the whole family. “I really like it when the action spills off the stage and into the audience,” says Alex, “and when kids in the audience get so caught up that they shout things out and get involved. We’ve had lots of really successful Christmas shows in Cambridge and they’ve all had that element of audience interaction, and that’s what we’re doing with Snow White. All our productions are musical, so there will be a live band on stage and the show will be packed with fantastic original songs.

The J2 is a perfect venue for that, with its intimate feel; we’ll be taking some seats out and putting some on the stage, with the action happening right in the middle, so wherever you are, you’re only five or six metres from the actors. The audience will be right there with us as the story unfolds.”

And as for the seven dwarves who take Snow White in and protect her – they’ll be given a modern makeover, offering a contrast to the image-conscious, opulent world in which Snow White has grown up. “They’ll be more like ‘the seven vegans’,” says Alex, “getting back to the land and living off-grid. It’s a reimagining of what these guys might be doing living out in the forest, so we’ll be seeing them as eco warriors, cutting back on plastic and reducing their carbon footprint.” Much more 2018! 

Tickets from £10 to £15.50, with discounts for groups. 

29 November – 6 January Aladdin 

Forget advent calendars – in Cambridge, the Christmas countdown officially starts once the Arts Theatre panto comes to town, and this year there’s a real treat in store with ‘the most thrilling pantomime of them all’, Aladdin.

This genie-us production tells the story of a young man who is short of cash but big on personality, finding a way to help his family escape the mean streets of Old Peking, and discovering true love along the way – all with a little bit of help from a magic lamp.

This Christmas classic features some of the most iconic panto characters, including Wishee Washee, played by ventriloquist Max Fulham and, of course, the ultimate evil villain, Abanazar, played by Wayne Sleep in full baddie mode. Matt Crosby will be making his 13th – yes, 13th! – appearance as the Arts Theatre’s panto dame, this time playing Widow Twanky. 

Tickets from £16 to £45.

23 December A Victorian Christmas

The Christmas that we celebrate is heavily influenced by the Victorians, from the cards that we send to the trees we decorate and the food we eat. Saffron Walden’s award-winning concert venue, Saffron Hall, is the venue for this show celebrating the delights of Christmas past, with two legends of stage and screen – Holby City’s Robert Powell and New Tricks’ Susan Jameson – sharing the words and music of figures including Edward Lear, Lewis Carroll, Alfred Lord Tennyson and Queen Victoria herself. It’s a veritable stocking full of festive good cheer. 

Tickets from £5 to £20. 

18-22 December Peter Pan: a musical adventure

The much-loved story of the boy who never grew up, and his adventures with Peter, Wendy, John and Michael when they fly away to Neverland. This production from Cambridge Theatre Company follows 2017’s James and the Giant Peach and 2016’s Goodnight Mister Tom, and features a gorgeous musical score from George Stiles and Anthony Drewe.

Tickets, for the shows at The Great Hall, at The Leys, cost from £18 to £22.50

29 December – 1 January Saint Petersburg Classic Ballet

For an unmissable, breathtaking Christmas treat, nothing can beat an outing to the ballet. Every winter at the Corn Exchange, the St Petersburg Classic Ballet company rounds off one year and welcomes the next with performances of two beautiful classical ballets set to the timeless music of Tchaikovsky, and featuring stunning costumes and dazzling dancers.

First up, from 29 to 31 December, is The Nutcracker, a festive flight of fancy following our heroine Clara as she is transported from an old Russian toyshop to a magical forest filled with toys who come to life, and meets her Nutcracker Prince. Next, on 1 January, is the achingly romantic Swan Lake, the tragic tale of Prince Siegfried and his true love Odette, who are tricked by evil sorcerer Von Rothbart and his daughter Odile, but would rather die than live apart. What better way to greet the new year?

Tickets cost from £18 to £38.

13-15 December The Nutcracker

For a short run of eight performances, Ballet Central returns to the ADC theatre this Christmas for a special version of the classic ballet The Nutcracker, performed to the iconic Tchaikovsky score. It’s Christmas Eve, and Clara is exploring Drosselmeyer’s toyshop when the dolls come alive and she is transported to an enchanted forest and a kingdom of sweets, where she meets the Nutracker Prince and the Sugar Plum Fairy.

This shorter, 45-minute interpretation of the ballet is perfect for young audiences and a beautiful, Christmassy introduction to the world of ballet and classical music. Tickets cost £10. 

21 November - 1 December The Gingerbread Man 

Run, run, as fast as you can! We all know that the Gingerbread Man has been running since he first popped out of that oven. But this Christmas at Cambridge’s ADC theatre, he’s breaking with tradition and entering into an epic, chocolatey battle against the forces of evil in the form of venture capitalist Mrs Badbury and the menacing Milky Bar Kid, when they turn Quality Street from a utopia of flavour equality into a soul-destroying factory. Gingie has to learn the importance of friendship and tolerance and join forces with an intrepid gang of baked goods. But can he do it in time to stop the baddies turning the moon into a giant creme egg for profit? 

Footlights’ annual panto is a byword for quirky, anarchic, hilarious fun, and this year’s show promises to be choc-a-bloc with gooey goodness for the whole family. There are evening shows every day except Sundays, and matinee performances too. Tickets £10-£16