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Bah, humbug! Ten seriously non-festive shows to see this Christmas

December isn't just about festive cheer!

Oliver Johnstone and Joshua Griffin
© Johan Persson

For those who want their theatre a bit darker this winter, here are some gripping, form-busting plays and musicals to try out!

Sons of the Prophet

Sons of the Prophet
© Hampstead Theatre

Stephen Karam wrote one of the best plays of the 2010s with The Humans, a melancholic, evasive study of family life. He's now back on UK soil with an earlier play, Sons of the Prophet, which was a Pulitzer finalist back when it premiered in 2012. It follows a a gay American Maronite Christian in rural Pennsylvania grappling with unexpected tragedy. The cast includes Cruise star Jack Holden. Hampstead Theatre, 2 December to 14 January 2023


Rosy McEwen and Giles Terera
© Felicity McCabe

The National Theatre's deputy artistic director Clint Dyer is bringing a bold new take to Shakespeare's tragedy in this new production, led by the award-winning Hamilton star Giles Terera. We can't wait to see what Dyer, Terera and co have in store. National Theatre, 23 November to 21 January 2023

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead

Kathryn Hunter and Tim McMullan
© Simon Annand, Dan Wooller

Theatre nerds are geeking out over this new Complicité show, adapted from Olga Tokarczuk's solemnly-titled seminal Polish text. For anyone wanting an advance look at the show before its major 2023 tour, it's doing three performances this side of Christmas. Theatre Royal Plymouth, 1 to 3 December

A Streetcar Named Desire

Anjana Vasan, Lydia Wilson and Paul Mescal
© Julia Fullerton-Batton

Paul Mescal, the chain-wearing break-out star of Normal People, is making his way to the stage at the Almeida. That'd be enough of a headline in and of itself, but then you have to bear in mind he's being directed by record-breaker Rebecca Frecknall (Cabaret) and joined by cream of the acting crop Anjana Vasan and Lydia Wilson. Possibly the hottest ticket of this winter season. Almeida Theatre, 12 December to 4 February 2023

Henry V

Helena Lymbery and Oliver Johnstone
© Johan Persson

The Globe's edgy new indoor staging of Shakespeare's bloody history play is co-produced alongside the potent stage company Headlong, with a cast led by Oliver Johnstone. Expect some deep-rooted reflections on the nature of nations, nationalism and conflict. Shakespeare's Globe, 23 November to 4 February 2023

Garth Marenghi's TerrorTome

Garth Marenghi's Dark Place

The seminal early 00s series from Matthew Holness has been a firm fan favourite for the last 18 years, and it's exciting to see Holness now take his character on the road for a series of tour stops to accompany his new book. UK tour, until 13 December

Arms and the Man

Alex Waldmann and Rebecca Collingwood
© Ellie Kurttz

The Orange Tree's artistic director Paul Miller will end his tenure with a new revival of Arms and the Man, a George Bernard Shaw moral battle set during a bloody central European war. It's also deeply romantic, so perhaps not too gloomy! Orange Tree Theatre, until 14 January 2023

Wickies: The Vanishing Men of Eilean Mor

Wickies: The Vanishing Men of Eilean Mor

Now here's one for the thrill-seekers – Paul Morrissey's play is based on the spooky true story about three men who disappeared in the Outer Hebrides. Who needs Santa when you have the supernatural! Park Theatre, 30 November to 31 December

Watch on the Rhine

The adult cast for the show

The Donmar will play host to a new revival of 1941 political thriller Watch on the Rhine, a meditation on identity and war set in Washington DC. A fab cast is in place to do Lillian Hellman's text justice, and, like David Tennant's Good, this one feels unpleasantly prescient. Donmar Warehouse, 9 December to 4 February 2023


Michael Luwoye
© Ellie Kurttz

A world premiere musical following the trials and tribulations of Nelson Mandela will grace the Young Vic's stage over the festive season. Broadway alum Michael Luwoye, best known for starring in the titular role of Hamilton, takes on the role of the South African icon in director Schele Williams' production. Young Vic, 28 November to 4 February 2023

Les Misérables on tour

Will Callan as Marius and company
© Danny Kaan

It's definitely got something of an uplifting ending, but we thought we'd throw in Les Mis for those wanting a bit of a grittier, edgier stage experience this Christmas. With a higher body count than most seasons of Game of Thrones, the ongoing tour of Les Mis is setting up camp in Cardiff over the festive period. Wales Millennium Centre, 13 December to 14 January 2023


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