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Top half term kids shows

Wondering what theatre to take your little'uns to see in the half term holidays? Here's a handy list

The Gruffalo's Child
© Lesley Cook Headshots

In theory, half-term may sound like a lovely opportunity to spend some quality time with the kids. In reality, however, it's a week of hard graft. Those little'uns need entertaining, we hear you, and so here are our suggestions of the best theatrical fun you could find. From big West End classics such as Matilda to smaller-scale, but no less charming pieces from the Little Angel puppet theatre, you should find something here for all ages and tastes.

The Midnight Gang

The Midnight Gang

Bryony Lavery adapts best-selling kids author (and comedy sketch writer) David Walliams' most popular children's book of 2016. Set in the children's ward of the Lord Funt Hospital, we follow 12 year-old Tom who teams up with some buddies to escape the very strange and spooky place. Watch our video from rehearsals for a sneak peek. Ages 6-plus. Chichester Festival Theatre, until 3 November


It may have burst onto the stage courtesy of the RSC, Tim Minchin and Dennis Kelly eight years ago, but that doesn't stop this musical Roald Dahl adaptation being one of the best around. It's fiesty, silly, very, very funny and packed full with great songs. This one's for the mums and dads too. Ages 6-plus. Cambridge Theatre, London and UK tour to Manchester Palace Theatre until 11 November and continues to tour

Pirate Pearl and the Big Blue Monster

Pirate Pearl

The Lyric Hammersmith's Little Lyric season is created especially for audiences aged 2 to 11. There are lots of companies in the season, which has been running from the beginning of September, but this piece about Pirate Pearl and her crusty shipmate Grandpa Bert, is on slap bang in the middle of half-term. It runs twice a day for 55 minutes. Ages 3 to 11. Lyric Hammersmith, 23 to 27 October

Truth or Dare, Britney or Goofy, Nacht und Nebel, Jesus Christ or Superstar

Truth or Dare
© Diego Franssens

This one is for older audiences, so not for the full family. But if you have some bigger kids (aged 16 or over) then Dutch theatermaker Lies Pauwels' new piece should be eye opening. In the play Pauwels brings together seven young adults who have psychological vulnerabilities, three supermodels and a priest who all explore their own demons onstage. Pauwels' work is always testing, and she's absolutely known for being controversial. So be warned. It's also in Dutch with English subtitles. Ages 16 to adult. Unicorn Theatre from 19 to 21 October


The cast of Disney's Aladdin
© Deen van Meer

Discover a whole new world onstage thanks to Disney's Aladdin, a stage musical adaptation of the hit film. We love the bright, madcap scenes starring the excellent Genie, which feel more than a little magic. The show announced it was closing in the West End next autumn, so it's time to get on that flying carpet and get your tickets. Ages 6-plus. Prince Edward Theatre, until late August 2019

The Adventures of Curious Ganz

The Adventures of Curious Ganz

Little Angel Theatre is one of the best places to watch lovely puppetry and there's usually something exciting for the clan over half-term. This October it's a story of science and alchemy, which follows the curious hero Ganz, who wants to understand everything. It's a made up story based on the true life of 16th-century copper smelter Joachim Ganz. Ages 1 to 15. Little Angel Theatre, until 21 October

Three Sat Under the Banyan Tree

Three Sat Under the Banyan Tree
© Michael Wharley and Rebecca Pitt

This co-production between Tara Arts and Polka Theatre is written by Shamser Sinha and tells the story of what happens when three orphans open a magical book under a Banyan tree. There's masks, music and movement and lots of storytelling in what is the first ever stage adaptation of The Panchatantra (ancient Indian fables about animals) in the UK. Ages 7-plus. Polka Theatre until 21 October

The Time Seekers, Wardrobe Theatre, Plymouth

The Time Seekers

South West-based company The Wardrobe Ensemble has been making a name for itself as a creator of both adult and kids theatre – their The Star Seekers just finished a run at the National Theatre. This piece is a new time travelling mission where Alph, Betty and Gammo enlist the help of the audience to answer the question: 'what is a Diplodocus' favourite bedtime story?'. Ages 3-plus. Plymouth Theatre Royal 22 to 26 October

Stick Man

The Stick Man
© Steve Ullathorne

Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler's hit kids' book is about a lovely stick man, who heads out away from the family tree and has to find his way back. There are songs, puppetry and live music, all staged by Freckle Theatre. All ages welcome. Leicester Square Theatre, 20 October to 6 January

Awful Auntie

David Walliams and the cast of Awful Auntie

Yet another adaptation of a David Walliams book for the stage. This time it's his tale of what happens when young Stella has to deal with a particularly tricksy aunt. The Birmingham Stage Company – who are also behind the Horrible Histories shows – are touring this around the UK, so if you can't get to it in half-term, there's sure to be some dates you can. Ages 5-plus. G Live Guildford, from 17 to 20 October, Theatre Royal Bath from 23 to 27 October and then touring

School of Rock

Stephen Leask in School of Rock
©Tristram Kenton

Andrew Lloyd Webber and Julian Fellowes may sound like an unlikely duo to be behind this stage adaptation of the hit film starring Jack Black, but we would never lie to you. It's a hilarious show, with lots of rocking out and some super talented kids, who put together an amazing band lead by a somewhat dysfunctional teacher. Gillian Lynne Theatre, currently booking until July 2019

Terrible Tudors and Awful Egyptians

Awful Egyptians
© Mark Douet

With Terrible Tudors and Awful Egyptians you get two for one. The popular Horrible Histories crew, adapted for theatres by the Birmingham Stage Company, are usually a riot. Not only that, but their shows make history a lot of fun. Want to keep up the kids' education in the holidays? Here's a good bet. Rest assured: there are jokes for the adults in the audience too. All ages. Floral Pavillion, New Brighton 10 to 18 October and Hull New Theatre from 17 to 20 October and then touring

The Gruffalo's Child

The Gruffalo's Child
© Lesley Cook

Tall Stories, another excellent kids' theatre company, stages Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler's brilliant instalment in their hit Gruffalo series. It follows the Gruffalo's Child who ignores her father's warnings about the big bad mouse and heads out into the deep dark wood. Ages 3-plus. Norwich Playhouse 15 to 21 October, Rose Theatre Kingston 23 to 28 October and then touring

How to Hide a Lion

How to Hide a Lion
©The Other Richard 2016

As it's on a huge UK tour to arts centres up and down the country, there's bound to be a place near you that's showing this lovely puppet show adapted from Helen Stephen's children's book. It's also got music from the renowned jazz performer Barb Jungr and tells the story of Iris, who helps a lion that's chased out of town. Ages 3-plus. Lyric Hammersmith, 20 Oct, Broadway Theatre, 21 October and more until 18 November

Princess Charming

Princess Charming
(© Rosie Powell)

Spun Glass Theatre address gender politics for young children head-on in this family-friendly piece that celebrates exactly who you are. It's a cabaret set up for kids and encourages families to get in on the discussions too. Ages 7 to 11. The Marlowe Studio Theatre, 20 October, The Place, 21 October, Ovalhouse 23 to 27 and touring.