Winter Breaks in London

winter breaks in london

Hi Theatre Goers

Woo… just popped out for a quick breath of fresh air and came back inside with my hands feeling like blocks of ice! Yes, I think winter has definitely arrived and so I can safely say it’s time to write my annual Winter Breaks in London blog.

slavas snowshowWinter Breaks in London 2015/2016

I’ll start first with Winter at Southbank Centre with a theme focusing on family, charity and giving to others. There’s fun for all ages ranging from award-winning theatrical performances such as the delightful Slava’s Snowshow, the London premiere of We Are the Monsters plus a festive concert from The Choir with No Name. The event runs from 20th November to 31st December and as well as the theatre shows visitors can enjoy a BUMP Rollerdisco and the Southbank Centre Winter Market along the riverfront selling gifts, food and drink.

enchantyed woodlandOn the outside of London to the West side grow the beautiful oaks trees and gardens at Syon Park in Osterley. Here you will find the fauna and flora illuminated in spectacular fashion in the Enchanted Woodland. Visitors to the magical event are taken on a unique guided walk through a trail that leads around the 18th century lake – where the shapes and textures of the ancient winter trees are reflected in the water – and past intriguing corners of the estate, all of it floodlit to maximum Christmas effect! It’s open from Friday to Sunday from 20th November to 6th December 2015.

winter wonderlandNow a firm seasonal fixture in London is Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland bringing lots of family fun to Winter Breaks in London, with its giant Ferris wheel, carousels and ghost rides. Then there’s the Artic Circle and Alpine Adventure to explore as well. And the world famous Zippo’s Circus is in residence too. Visitors can wander around the many shops picking up a Christmas gift or two for their nearest and dearest and even try their hand at ice skating. It runs from 20th November 2015 to 3rd January 2016.

Another regular event during the winter months is the ice skating rink behind the somerset houseimpressive Somerset House set on the banks of the River Thames. From now until 10th January 2016 visitors can don their woolly hats, muffs and skates and glide gently across the purpose built rink. You can make the occasion even more special by sampling Fortnum and Mason Champagne & Chocolate Truffles, Wine & Fondue for Two or Champagne & Smoked Salmon Blini which are all served in Fortnum’s Lodge onsite.

All the above events can be enjoyed during the day, leaving the evenings free for some a christmas carolexceptional theatre which London does SO well – especially at Christmas!

On offer for Winter Breaks in London this year we have zany ‘new kid on the block’ Elf at the Dominion theatre, the return of The Lorax to the Old Vic theatre and for families with older children there’s Jim Broadbent as Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol at the Noel Coward theatre.

Plus, multi award winning musicals Matilda at the Cambridge theatre, Charlie and the chocolate factoryCharlie and the Chocolate Factory at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, Disney’s The Lion King at the Lyceum theatre and Wicked at the Apollo Victoria.

All of this makes me believe, in the words of Bing Crosby, “it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” and I absolutely love it!

Looking Forward to May 2016 in London’s Theatreland

Hi Theatre-goers

Wow! What a week it’s been for fans of He Who Shall Not Be Named and his nemesis Harry Potter. The excitement of tickets finally going on sale for the much anticipated new Potter stage show over-shadowed by the fact that they sold out within a milli-second and more tickets had to be hurriedly released to placate the Hogwart loving public only for the same thing to happen again with the system asking fans to pay now for tickets in 2017.

Cursed  child

May 2016 is going to be an amazing time for families visiting London anyway because the Broadway transfer of Disney’s Aladdin which will begins its previews at the Prince Edward theatre after Miss Saigon has made its final helicopter trip on 27th February next year.

The Aladdin theatre break buying experience should be much less traumatic too – not quite as easy as rubbing a lamp, but up there none-the-less!

Of course we know the story of Aladdin. The same could not be said of Harry Potter.

So what exactly JK Rowling has in store for us in Part 8 of the worldwide phenomenon that has followed 11 year old Harry from the cupboard under the stairs to young adulthood culminating in the ultimate battle with evil magic?

At the end of the Deathly Hallows book and film, we saw Harry had married Ginny and become a father to three children. His oldest two James and Albus were off the Hogwarts at the beginning of the school term and there in the background of the commotion on Platform 9 ¾ was Harry’s arch rival Draco Malfoy – himself a father sending his off-spring away to school. There was a slight moment between the two which leaves the reader/audience to wonder what might happen in the future.

And so, here it is not in book or film form but as a stage play written by Ms Rowling herself in collaboration with Let Me In writers Jack Thorne and John Tiffany. The story centres around Harry’s second son Albus who must come to terms with being born into a family legacy he doesn’t have the power to change and how Harry, now an over-worked Ministry of Magic employee, cannot leave the past behind him. The tag-line being “that darkness sometimes comes from unexpected places”.

It all sounds fantastically tantalising doesn’t it? Plus it’s being offered as a 2 part package – a trend that was first started by the RSC in 1980 when they produced The Life and Times of Nicholas Nickelby in 2 parts. And I’m all for getting children to the theatre twice in one week!

As I am probably not going to stand a chance of seeing the plays until 2017 at the earliest, that gives me a nice long time to sew together my wizard outfit, train my Owl and find an Elder wand… or maybe I’ll just head to Watford again and enjoy the Harry Potter Studio Tour – it’s cheaper too!

Happy theatre-going!


Theatre Breaks Guests Get Poetic

It was National Poetry Day yesterday and we had great fun writing our own theatrical poetry… yes Hail Poetry!

We’ve already published a few stanzas – and we think William Shakespeare himself would have been proud of us – if not for the skill, at least for the enthusiasm!

So here are some more verses… why don’t you have a go – it’s like painting – when you get to adulthood we just don’t seem to have the time to do the simple things we loved as achild – so why not write a poem. No-one is judging you: it’s just great fun! Details are at the bottom.

Annette Brampton gave us “The Thrill”

I love going to the theatre
It such a thrill
When your favourite actor
Comes onto the stage
It is really Brill

Very apt as we have been discussing seeing stars in shows in this year’s Survey

“Theatre!” is by Caroline McCabe

Going to the theatre is a treat, it’s really quite neat.
Plays and musicals, pantos and all,
So much choice – it says it all.
For young and old, may I be so bold,
Theatre is a joy to behold!

Nikki Hayes’s “Theatre Day” says it all for me

I love going to a show
To see which way its going to go
Singing, dancing or a play
I do so love a theatre day

But my favourite at the moment is Linda Coomber’s simple

Roses are red, Violets are blue
I’d be so happy to watch a play with you.

If you want to write your own theatre-inspired poem, just do it! On your lap top, on a piece of paper or just in your head.

If you want to see it published send it in. More poems and a way to upload your poem is at I think the ws stands for Word Smith or William Shakespeare – I am not sure which yet.


Family Breaks for Autumn Half Term 2015

Family Breaks for Autumn half term

Hi Theatre-goers

sara gives some tips for entertaining the family over autumn half termWhoop whoop, the kids are back at school and I can now breath a sigh of relief for the next six weeks as my daily life gets back to a ‘normal’ routine.

But then on 24th October it all kicks off again with the Autumn Half Term and I have to put my mind back into gear to think of inventive and exciting things for them to do when perhaps the weather isn’t so promising.

Although, I must admit, in the past we’ve had some pretty good trips into London during this Half Term as it’s building up to Halloween and ultimately Christmas. There’s quite a cosy, comforting feeling on the streets of London as the days get darker earlier and you’re walking about with shop window and street lights glowing all around.

London Eye  When we’ve been to see a show during half term, we’ve made a day (or two) of it with more often than not a trip to the world famous toy shop Hamleys in Regent Street. We’ve stroked the rays at Sealife London Aquarium, viewed the sprawling skyline on the London Eye (mornings are the best time for this), been scared in the London Dungeons and had our picture taken with all the stars at Madame Tussauds.

We’ve visited the Mummies at the British Museum in Bloomsbury, had our minds boggled at the Science Museum and met the terrifying T-Rex at the Natural History Museum – the latter two venues are next to each other in Kensington.

There have also been some great exhibitions at the Royal Academy of Arts in Piccadilly and of course don’t forget the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square and Tate Modern on the banks of the Thames in Southwark.

We’ve taken the Thames river taxi down to the O2 arena where we’ve marvelled at Tutankhamun’s gold, walked with dinosaurs, watched the world’s top tennis players sweat it out on court and ice skated (or in my case fall over on the ice numerous times).

american-idiot 200x200What we’ve seen in the West End to top off our many trips has ranged from Disney’s The Lion King, to War Horse with Matilda the Musical, Billy Elliot and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory thrown in between. And this year there’s the thrill of seeing a real steam locomotive chug its way onto the stage at the King Cross theatre with the Olivier Award winning family show The Railway Children. And for older off-spring there’s the hard-hitting American Idiot at the Arts theatre and new kid on the block Bend It Like Beckham at the Phoenix theatre.

Of course there is aloso Elf – the musical, but it is SOOO expensive I might just have to get the dvd out and make up my own songs.

the-making-of-harry-potter 200x200If London’s not your thing, why not visit Legoland at Windsor or Harry Potter Studio Tour just outside of Watford? There are more ideas at our sister site

Just writing this blog has given me a boost – it appears this half term will be just as exciting as all the ones before.




Teen Theatre in London

american-idiot 200x200

Hi Theatre-goers

saraI’m spending a week up in Harrogate, but even the pull of the beautiful walks over the Yorkshire Dales can’t keep me away from writing my weekly blog to you all. Aren’t you lucky people?

the-39-stepsLast week I took my two teenage sons to see The 39 Steps at the Criterion theatre… It’s only taken me 9 years, the announcement of it closing in September and the fabulous discounts during Kids Week (which actually runs the whole of August) that finally forced me to book tickets. The boys really enjoyed it – a lot of slapstick which, of course, they adored (reminiscent of One Man, Two Guv’nors style of comedy).

It got me thinking about other shows that cater for the sometimes moody male teen who thinks that theatre is boring – my two have certainly had their fill of what they deem as “fluffy” musicals so we tend to go to plays now-a-days – but I’m thinking that they would like American Idiot at the Arts theatre which has just been extended to November.

american-idiotUsing the music of indie rock band Green Day to tell the story of three teenagers, post 9/11, who choose 3 different paths in life all which are influenced by the witnessing of the terrorist attacks on their country. American Idiot is an in your face theatre experience dealing with sex, drugs and rock n’ roll.

Two tried and tested plays that we have seen in the last few years are War Horse at the New London theatre and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time now at the Giegud theatre.

war-horseWe had already read War Horse, an amazing story by Michael Murpurgo, as a family, so we very keen to see the stage adaptation. We weren’t disappointed – it had transferred effortlessly from page to stage with truly remarkable physical effects to bring the horses to life. Highly recommended.

Another highlight was seeing The Curious Incident shortly after it transfecurious-incidentrred to the West End from a sell-out run at the National theatre. This time it was only me who had read the original book, but I knew it would be a story that would appeal to the boys and again the award-winning staging of Christopher’s adventures from his home-town across London in search of answers and his Mum were inspiring.

If you do want to go down the musical route, then Billy Elliot, Jersey Boys and Sunny Afternoon would probably offer the best entertainment for teenagers. Remember that although extremely funny and touching on subjects that most teens will find hilarious The Book of Mormon has an age restriction of 17 years. My 14 year old is desperate to see it, but he’s going to have a wait a few years and hope it’s still going strong when he’s old enough!

lord-of-fliesNext month we are going to see Lord of the Flies at the Regent’s Park Open Air theatre. We were impressed with their production of To Kill A Mockingbird two years ago, so have great faith in this stage version of another book we have again all read as a family.

It has always given me, and suspect it always will, great joy to go to the theatre with my off-spring since I first took my eldest to Disney’s The Lion King when he was 5 years old and I hope that when they go off into the big wide world and start their own families they will continue to enjoy the theatre with their children.