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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.