Best pantomimes to watch this Christmas 2018
Find out where you need to go to get the very best in pantomime magic
It's pantomime season 2018! Across the country celebrities are donning their gaudiest, sparkliest outfits and praticising their thigh slapping so that they can offer you the best festive treat around. But which is the fairest panto in all the land? Here are a few that promise to be a real Christmas treat. For all our dedicated festive coverage, head to our Christmas and pantomime page.
Aladdin, Hackney Empire
Hackney Empire's beloved pantomime is about as raucous and fun-filled as they come. Susie McKenna returns to the venue to write and direct the festive offering, which features dame Clive Rowe (who once was nominated for an Olivier Award for his dame) alongside returning panto veteran Tameka Empson as the Empress. That's not forgetting Kat B as the Genie of the Lamp and Gemma Sutton as Aladdin. The Empire always embraces everything that's great about panto: inclusivity, fun, jokes for the adults and lots of audience participation. 24 November to 6 Jan
A Pair of Pantos, Malborough Pub and Theatre, Brighton and then touring
This is a trans-positive mashup of two quintessential pantos: Dick Whittington and Jack and the Beanstalk. The show is for all audiences, but it does cater in particular for trans, non-binary and queer parents (and non-parents). Also, this is one which trans, non-binary and queer children can feel safe and proud to watch. Surely only a good thing. 18 to 30 December.
Peter Pan, Birmingham Hippodrome
Pantomime veterans Jimmy Osmond and Matt Slack are joined this year by writer, actress and comedian Meera Syal for the festive offering at the Hippodrome in Birmingham. This will be the first time Syal has performed in a panto and, as a West Midlands lass, she's going to be right at home. 19 December to 27 January.
Dick Whittington, Lyric Hammersmith
One of the golden four London pantomimes (the other three being Hackney Empire, London Palladium and Theatre Royal Stratford East), this pantomime always has some sparky, sprightly writing and lots of DIY charm to it. Jude Christian and Cariad Lloyd pen this year's, which is also directed by Christian. 17 November to 6 January.
Cinderella, Manchester Opera House
Gareth Gates joins Les Dennis, Hayley-Ria Christian, Connor McIntyre and Shannon Flynn up in Manchester for Cinderella. We would bet that McIntrye and Dennis will make a genuinely hilarious ugly sisters and having Gates's pipes sing out would be anyone's idea of a lovely Christmas present.
Mother Goose, Above the Stag, London
London's headline adult panto returns this year in the form of Mother Goose, which marks the tenth anniversary of this particular panto running. You can expect dirty jokes galore in the story of kind-hearted Mother Goose and her gay son Tommy, who live in poverty in the generic northern mill town of Rugburn. Don't take the kids. 27 November to 12 January.
Snow White, London Palladium
Obviously this one makes the cut on this pantomime round up list. After pantomime returned to the Palladium for the first time in 26 years in 2016, the festive shows have gone from strength to strength. This year Julian Clary returns, alongside Dawn French as the Wicked Queen and a host of other hilarious celebs including Paul Zerdin as Muddles, Nigel Havers as The Understudy and Gary Wilmot as Mrs Crumble. 8 December to 13 January.
Peter Pan, Richmond Theatre
Robert Lindsay makes his pantomime debut this year in Richmond Theatre's Christmas show. He's playing a Hook more than a little inspired by Pirates of the Caribbean, which we're very happy about. We think his rogueish persona will make a formidible adversary for Peter Pan. 8 December to 6 January.
Aladdin, New Wimbledon Pantomime
Traditionally the New Wimbledon and Richmond Theatre pantos have hosted some of the biggest stars from across the pond in the capital around Christmas (think Pamela Anderson and Henry Winkler). This year the Brits seem to be taking over, with Robert Lindsay in Richmond and Pete Firman and Paul Merton leading the troupe with Aladdin. It should be a marvellous mash-up of magic and mayhem. 8 December to 6 January.
Cinderella, Bristol Hippodrome
Gok Wan and Brian Conley have formed something of an unlikely friendship over their pantomime seasons together, with Wan even saying he wouldn't do panto without Conley. There must be something winning in their double act, then, and so we're glad they're returning, this time to Bristol Hippodrome. 8 December to 6 January.
Aladdin, King's Theatre, Glasgow
Elaine C Smith is Glasgow's jewel of panto, loved like mad by the locals, she's a festive stalwart and returns this year to perform as Widow Twankey in the latest offering alongside Paul-James Corrigan and Johnny Mac. The veteran Smith absolutely knows how to delight the whole family, so if you're north of the border, heading to Glasgow could be the perfect Christmas treat. 1 December to 6 January.
Sleeping Beauty, Theatre Royal Stratford East
Pantomime at Theatre Royal Stratford East has historically been one of the main highlights of the year. In 2018 there's a new team in town and the show is being directed by the very excellent Matthew Xia, whose first ever theatre experience was in fact at the same theatre. We can't wait to see what he comes up with. 1 December to 12 January.
Cinderella, New Victoria, Woking
Everybody's favourite bad guy Craig Revel Horwood is starring in Woking's pantomime this year as the Wicked Stepmother alongside Paul Chuckle and Phil Butler. Horwood knows how to get the rabble roused, so we think he'll be fabulous here. 7 December to 6 January.