War Horse

London Theatre Shows

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London Theatre Shows

No visit to London would be complete without seeing a West End show and, before you say it’s beyond your budget, take  look at some of the hefty discounts available at top London theatre shows with some even including a free dinner!

Whether you like musicals, drama, comedy, opera or dance or are just looking for something to entertain the children, there are London theatre shows to suit everyone and the biggest problem is possibly which one to chose.

For families with children of primary school age and especially those who enjoy the books by Roald Dahl – that’ll be most of them then – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a top favourite. In Dahl’s books the baddies, in this case the spoilt and greedy, always get their comeuppance, and when a group of kids win tickets to the weird and wonderful chocolate heaven run by the eccentric Willy Wonka it is the poor and humble Charlie Bucket that gets the top prize.

Another of his books, Matilda, has been adapted for the theatre, in which the heroine, neglected by her hedonistic parents and repressed by her monstrous headmistress, Miss Trunchbull, finally gets her revenge.

Dahl’s works are modern day morality tales and whilst kids will laugh their heads off,  parents may squirm in their seats a little!


Another best seller for families is the musical based on the well known Disney animated film, The Lion King which is another good versus evil tale and this play will hold their attention since the story is so familiar and the show is full of dramatic special effects and music and they’ll all be rooting for their hero, Simba, to triumph, which of course, he does.

This age group also love the Horrible History books, and the shows Barmy Britain, part 1 and 2 leave none of the past nastiness of British history out, which is why the children enjoy them so much!

For the more scientifically minded kids there is Brainiac –  based on the Sky TV show – a mischievous programme that made parents cringe (don’t try this at home, please…) would go down well.

For younger children, Michael Rosen’s award winning book “We’re going on a Bear Hunt” has also been adapted for the stage, complete with squishy, squelchy special effects and plenty of interactive scenes.

Older teenagers may ask to see The Woman in Black, a spooky murder mystery with plenty of nasty surprises and the play is currently on the National Curriculum for GCSE drama and one of the choice of set books for GCSE English literature.

As an alternative, the so-called “jukebox musicals” make a fun night out if you fancy a bit of sing along nostalgia. They don’t have much of a storyline, if any, but showcase the songs of various pop/rock stars. Choose from Let it be (The Beatles) Thriller Live (Michael Jackson) We Will Rock You (Queen) Jersey Boys (Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons) or Mama Mia, which has a comical, if rather implausible storyline, interspersed with outbursts of Abba’s greatest hits.

Musicals with more dramatic stories and poignant, memorable, songs like Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera are bestsellers, and although you may have seen the films, nothing compares to the atmosphere of a live stage performance.

If treating yourselves or family to the theatre why not make a night of it and buy a dinner and show ticket with even some ‘eat for free’ at restaurants  selected for their proximity to your chosen venue as well as their superb food, before the show, or after if you’re going to a matinee performance.


After a hard day’s sightseeing a meal at a slick London restaurant, with a cocktail or two maybe,  is just what you need to get you in the mood for a great night out. The choice of cuisine varies according to the location of the theatre and there are European, Chinese, Thai, Indian, Brazilian, American and Japanese restaurants available, as well as ones serving good old fashioned British sausage and mash or fish and chips (with mushy peas!)

What are you waiting for? Just do it, since offers on top shows get snapped up quite quickly!

Theatre gift vouchers also make a great present for anyone celebrating a birthday, anniversary, graduation, retirement or engagement. Indeed any excuse will do!

My personal choice would be to see The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, having read the book, which is a real page-turner.  Quickly rising up the bestseller chart, this play gives a powerful and moving insight into a different kind of mind. The hero, 15 year old Christopher, who shows traits on the autism/aspergers syndrome spectrum as he describes himself as a “mathematician with behavioural problems”, sets out to solve the mystery of the killing of his neighbour’s dog and in doing so uncovers the guilty secrets of the adults around him.  Never having ventured further than the end of his own street by himself his journey to see his mother in London, whom he had been told was dead, from his home town of Swindon, is fraught with difficulty and trauma, but Christopher is never portrayed as an object of pity and the audience will be rooting for him to succeed, and for the adults who control his life to give him a greater degree of understanding and respect.  A very thought provoking play which makes the audience question their attitudes to those who are a bit “different”.

Friends are raving about the play War Horse, which is based on a historical novel for older children by Michael Morpurgo, a story of courage, loyalty and the horrors of war.

When young Albert’s drunken father sells his beloved horse, Joey, to the cavalry at the outbreak of World War One,  Albert lies about his age in order to enlist, and embarks on a  long and dangerous mission to rescue Joey and bring him home. The horses in the play are represented by life sized puppets, skilfully manipulated to mimic the mannerisms and movements of real animals. The story is moving, but not overly sentimental, and the play won 5 Tony awards in 2011.

If you have seen any London theatre shows recently why not let us know what you thought of them, and how you think the stage show compares to the original text or the film version.

Kate Quigley

Kate Quigley Travel Writer

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