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Top Ten: London shows for half term

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Whether yours is this week or next, autumn half term provides the ideal opportunity for a theatrical excursion with the kids. Here, we make a few suggestions, and point out which shows are offering extra half term matinees...

Cambridge Theatre

The Whatsonstage.com and Olivier Award-winning Matilda continues its acclaimed run at the Cambridge Theatre.

Roald Dahl's much-loved story bursts into life on stage in this brand new musical version where children and adults will be thrilled and delighted by the story of the special little girl with an extraordinary imagination.

The musical is written

by the highly acclaimed playwright Dennis Kelly, with music and lyrics by the anarchic Australian comedian, musician and composer Tim Minchin, and direction by Matthew Warchus. A guaranteed winner for the whole family. 

Matinee shows: Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 2.30pm. Extra half term matinee on 1 November at 2.30pm.

Battersea Arts Centre

At BAC, an adventure for all ages is waiting to burst out, take over the building and spill onto the streets.

There are three journeys on offer, aimed at different age groups. You might choose to explore the secret passages of Battersea's former Town Hall in search of a lost memory or take a trip outside with the strangest brass band you've ever heard. Either way, there are stories to "inspire imaginations young and old".

Everyone can eat together before the show and when all the adventuring is done, groups will be reunited to celebrate and swap stories. Don't miss this chance to share something unique and authentic with friends and family (read our review here).

Times vary - click 'buy tickets' for details

Theatre Royal Drury Lane

Everyone's favourite angry green ogre leaps from cinema screen to West End stage with a bucket load of enthusiasm that's the perfect half term treat (and a chance to catch it before it closes in February!)

The far off land of Duloc is brought to life by the magical cast who will keep children (and adults) entertained from start to finish. The fairytale is adapted from the Oscar-winning 2001 film and retains all the classic adventures of Shrek (Dean Chisnall) and his loveable sidekick Donkey (Richard Blackwood). Lord Farquaad (Neil McDermott) plays the token villain; trying to steal the heart of Princess Fiona (Carley Stenson).

Songs that you know and love from the film, added with brand-new catchy tunes perfectly balance this show, ensuring all the family have a perfect afternoon this half term. 

Matinee shows: Saturday and Sunday at 3pm. Extra half term matinee on Monday 29 October at 3pm

Garrick Theatre

Have you ever wondered why the Romans never won MasterChef? Would you lose your heart or head to horrible Henry? Will Parliament escape gunpowder Guy? Enrol yourself at Georgian Crime School, dare to dance the Tyburn jig and find out what a baby farmer did!

Adapted from Terry Deary's bestselling book series, the latest instalment of Horrible Histores (following Terrible Tudors, Vile Victorians, Awful Egyptians and Ruthless Romans) will inform and entertain, promising the "history of Britain with the nasty bits left in".

And with a daytime running slot, it couldn't be better timed as the centrepiece of a day in the capital.

Times vary - click 'buy tickets' for details

Apollo Victoria

Wicked tells the untold tale of the witches of Oz and what exactly happened before Dorothy arrived.

Beautiful, popular and ambitious Glinda meets green-skinned, fiery and misunderstood Elphaba at Shiz University. The two are unlikely friends but this story, based on the novel by Gregory Maguire, explains how their friendship, self belief and determination lead them to becoming Glinda the Good Witch and the Wicked Witch of the West.

Having just celebrated its 6th birthday, Wicked proves that it's as popular as ever after winning two Whatsonstage.com Awards in 2010 and 2011 for Best West End show and an Olivier Award in 2010 for Most Popular Show. Take your kids and their friends (and yours) will be green with envy! 

Matinee shows: Wednesday and Saturday at 2.30pm

Little Angel Theatre

Adapted from the book by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, this heart-warming modern fairy tale is brought to life by Little Angel's signature puppetry and is suitable for ages 3+.

Each night, in the hours between supper and bedtime, the Tear Thief carries her waterproof, silvery sack as she steals the tears of every child who cries. But what does she do with all those tears?

Directed by Little Angel Theatre's artistic director Peter Glanville, the show features a recorded soundtrack by acclaimed actress Juliet Stevenson (read our review here). There won't be a dry eye in the house.

Times vary - click 'buy tickets' for details

Victoria Palace

One of the most celebrated, award-winning musicals on stage today, Billy Elliot has been dazzling London's West End since 2005, and has gone on to captivate audiences around the world.

Set in a northern mining town, against the background of the 1984/'85 miners' strike, the show is the inspirational story of a young boy's struggle against the odds to make his dream come true. Follow Billy's journey as he stumbles out of the boxing ring and into a ballet class where he discovers a passion for dance that inspires his family and whole community and changes his life forever.

With unforgettable music by Elton John, sensational dance and a powerful storyline, this is a perennial family favourite for very good reason. 

Matinee shows: Thursday and Saturday at 2.30pm. Extra half term matinee on 30 October at 2.30pm.

Lyceum Theatre

Set against the majesty of the Serengeti Plains and to the evocative rhythms of Africa, Disney's multi award-winning longrunner The Lion King will provide a theatre experience your children will never forget.

A spectacular visual feast, this adaptation of Disney's much-loved film transports audiences to a dazzling world that explodes with glorious colours, stunning effects, puppetry and enchanting music. At its heart is the powerful and moving story of Simba - the epic adventure of his journey from wide-eyed cub to his destined role as King of the Pridelands.

If you haven't yet experienced it, it's high time you did. 

Matinee shows: Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 2.30pm. Extra half term matinee on 1 November at 2.30pm.


A group of actors are performing The Winter's Tale at leading children's theatre the Unicorn. But it's not going well.

Based on Shakespeare's late comedy, this hilarious new production, aimed at ages 7-10, turns the world of The Winter's Tale on its head. It's a play within a play, in which four performers present Shakespeare's story of Kings and Queens and bears in the forest – a world of petty jealousies and playground rites, in which it's always the servants who draw the short straw. 

This original spin on a classic is directed by the Unicorn's new artistic director Purni Morell, and provides the ideal opportunity to introduce children to our greatest playwright.

Times vary - click 'buy tickets' for details

New London Theatre

War Horse is a spectacular, multi award-winning production based on the celebrated novel by Michael Morpurgo.

The First World War is the backdrop for this tale of bravery, loyalty, and the extraordinary bond between a young recruit and his horse.

Actors, working with astonishing life-sized puppets by the internationally renowned Handspring Puppet Company, take audiences on an unforgettable journey through history.

With its galloping success showing no signs of slowing down, why not see for yourself what all the fuss is about? 

Matinee shows: Thursday, Saturday at 2.30pm. Extra half term matinee on 30 November at 2pm.


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