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Bah humbug! 10 non–festive shows to see this winter

Not everything is sparkle and sequins this festive season – there's more intense drama waiting in the wings

The cast of The Jungle
© David Sandison

The Jungle

Young Vic, 7 December to 6 January

Commissioned by the National Theatre, The Jungle is the Young Vic and Good Chance Theatre's response to the Calais refugee crisis and the structures created there. Co-directed by The Crown showrunner Stephen Daldry alongside the Netflix series' associate director Justin Martin, the piece is a look at the grim realities of those trying to cross the Channel and reach the UK.

Find out more about the project here

Imogen Poots, James Norton, Malachi Kirby and Faith Alabi
© Marc Brenner


Donmar Warehouse, 7 December to 3 February

James Norton (Happy Valley, War and Peace), Imogen Poots (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf), Faith Alabi (The Rolling Stone) and Malachi Kirby (Rough Cuts) make up the cast of the UK premiere of award-winning writer Amy Herzog's Belleville, a play about the not-so-idyllic bohemian lifestyle of a couple in the French capital. Think less Midnight in Paris, more Before Midnight.

See the cast in rehearsals for the show

Tara Fitzgerald and Aidan McArdle in The Secret Theatre
© Marc Brenner

The Secret Theatre

Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, 16 November to 16 December

Spymaster before spies were cool , Sir Francis Walsingham gets a rare moment in the spotlight this festive season in Anders Lustgarten's new play at the Globe's Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. Fresh off the back of his Mexican fiesta adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing, director Matthew Dunster brings this Elizabethan tale of intrigue to the cosy space on the South Bank. Expect intrigue. And ruffs.

Read The Secret Theatre casting announcement


Royal Court, 24 November to 30 December

Forget reindeer, the Royal Court will be hosting a herd of different hooved quadrupeds in their festive offering this winter. Written by Syrian writer and filmmaker Liwaa Yazji, the show tackles the fallout of conflict in Syrian towns, where grieving families are fed propaganda and compensated with livestock. It's all directed by Royal Court regular Hamish Pirie.

Find out more about the goats in Goats

Cara Horgan and Danny Lee Wynter in Cell Mates
© Marc Brenner

Cell Mates

Hampstead Theatre, 30 November to 20 January

Simon Gray's play gives us another spy thriller for the festival season, though this one trades Tudors for the '60s . Geoffrey Streatfeild and Emmet Byrne star in the first revival of the show in over 20 years, which sees two criminals, a double agent and a petty thief, go head to head at Wormwood Scrubs Prison.

Find out more about the show's casting

Teresa Banham, Greg Hicks and Lindsey Campbell in The Open House
© Simon Annand

The Open House

Theatre Royal Bath, 23 November to 23 December

Greg Hicks and Teresa Banham star in the UK premiere of Will Eno's The Open House, a play that is less 'festive family fun' and more 'frantic family fiasco'. A wedding anniversary takes a murky turn, and a dog goes missing. From the sounds of it, Eno's domestic drama will make make your hellish Christmas dinners feel like an evening at the Ritz by comparison. Directed by former RSC artistic director Michael Boyd, the show will hop over to London's Print Room after its Christmas spell in Bath.

See the cast of The Open House in rehearsals

Anna O'Byrne, Carolyn Maitland and Greg Castiglioni rehearsing for The Woman in White
© Darren Bell

The Woman in White

Charing Cross Theatre, 30 November to 10 February

Most people may be dreaming of a white Christmas, but over at Charing Cross, the white is something a bit more ethereal. Andrew Lloyd Webber's revenant-revering musical will be revived for the first time at the West End venue just in time for Christmas, starring Anna O'Byrne, Carolyn Maitland and Chris Peluso with direction by artistic director Thom Southerland.

See the cast of The Woman in White in rehearsals

John Dougall, Nicholas Boulton, Peter de Jersey and Simon Thorp rehearsing for Cicero
© RSC, photo by Ikin Yum

Imperium: The Cicero Plays

Swan Theatre Stratford, 16 November to 10 February

People don't normally assume Christmas is a time to immerse yourself in a period of ancient Roman political intrigue and reflect on the nature of civic service, but the RSC have other ideas with their season offering at Stratford. The Cicero Plays, based on Robert Harris's trilogy of books inspired by the legendary thinker, run in a two-part six-hour extravaganza over at the Swan Theatre. Gregory Doran directs Richard McCabe in the title role.

Find out more about Imperium

The Grinning Man

Trafalgar Studio, 6 December to 17 February

A musical, based on a famous Victor Hugo novel, running in the West End? Are we seeing double? As it turns out there's a new player in town, and the macarbre and gruesome The Grinning Man comes to Trafalgar Studios after a storming run in Bristol last Christmas. Louis Maskell and Julian Bleach star, in a puppet-laden show overseen by Bristol Old Vic AD Tom Morris, one half of the War Horse directing duo.

Read the full casting for The Grinning Man here

Lizzy Connolly rehearsing for The Twilight Zone
© Marc Brenner

The Twilight Zone

Almeida Theatre, 5 December to 27 January

Christmas is a time for cosying around the fire, for settling down for hot cups of cocoa, while regailing your family with festive tales of cockle-warming capers. Sound unbearable? Then The Twilight Zone is definitely the show for you. Embrace your spooky side with the new stage adaptation of Rod Serling's 1960s cult classic TV show. Directed by Olivier Award-winner Richard Jones and adapted by Anne Washburn, this wins the crown of least-festive show of the year. Bring a sofa to hide behind.

See the cast of The Twilight Zone in rehearsals

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