Like Santa, the East of England overdelivers every Christmas on an exclusive and exciting offering of culture and arts activities. See below for just some of the many ways you and your family can enjoy the festive season…
Ten Sorry Tales
13 – 17 December
Nothing says Christmas more than reincarnated butterflies, a boy in a permanent state of narcolepsy and two sinister sisters with trespassers in their sights. Well, OK it’s not quite a John Lewis advert, but that’s how DanceEast are marking the festive season: with a staging of Arthur Pita’s beguiling dance adaptation of Ten Sorry Tales, the 2006 book of macabre modern-day fables from British author Mick Jackson. “Pita’s macabre cabaret confirms the choreographer as one of this generation’s leading storytellers,” said The Guardian.
Christmas at Snape
Snape Maltings, Suffolk
Snape Maltings is a one-stop shop for all things Christmas. From a children’s winter trail through the sublime riverside grounds, to the arrival by barge of Father Christmas, the Snape team will ensure that your visit remains a savoured seasonal memory for years to come. Other highlights include the BBC Concert Orchestra’s reading of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, a screening of The Snowman accompanied by a live orchestra and the perennially-popular annual Christmas Spectacular.
Thursday 12 December
Ipswich town centre may not seem the obvious place for an other-worldly ceremony charting the lost homes and impossible migrations of a small herd of illuminated caribou, but it works surprisingly well. As staged by celebrated Yorkshire-based visual theatre company Thingumajig, Ghost Caribou is a free walkabout act, performed three times across the day, that features a procession, folk dances and a shadow puppet play. See it to believe it, and then pop into M&S to pick up your tea.
The Voice Project presents: Songs of Winter
14, 20 & 21 December
Norwich’s The Voice Project has for the past decade produced numerous large-scale, open access, vocal performance projects, that bring together musicians and community choirs with cutting edge creative production values – and the results are stunning. This December, co-director Jon Baker brings the songs of winter to the Norwich Castle keep and invites participants to discover creative ways of using their voices, while gaining confidence and exploring new music. No experience necessary.
Four and a half go wild in Thetford Forest
Sir John Mills Theatre, Ipswich, 04 December – 4 January
Seckford Theatre, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 08 – 18 January
Key Theatre, Peterborough, 21 – 25 January
If you’ve grown weary of bellowing ‘Behind You!’ at a man in multi-coloured dress every Christmas, then Ipswich-based theatre troupe Eastern Angles is offering a fun-packed alternative to the standard pantomime. Four and a Half Go Wild in Thetford Forest spoofs the kids’ adventures of yore with a stolen time machine, hipster Neolithics and (keeping it topical) an appearance from Dad’s Army. Does it make sense? No. Will you and your family love it? Highly likely.
Cinderella in Norwich
Norwich Theatre Royal
17 December – 19 January
The Theatre Royal’s annual pantomime draws huge crowds every year and their production of Cinderella is likely to break all previous records. Expect magical twists, songs, fun, laughter and adventure – along with a star-studded cast that includes Hollyoaks and Dengineers favourite Joe Tracini, Casualty’s Amanda Henderson, Wicked and EastEnders David Witts and Norwich’s pantomime favourite Richard Gauntlett.
The Magic Fishbone
The Avenue Theatre, Ipswich
6 – 31 December
A down on her luck princess is gifted a magic fishbone that will give her anything she wishes for, as long as she wishes at the right moment. Joanna Carrick’s critically acclaimed adaptation of Charles Dickens’ The Magic Fishbone returns to the Avenue Theatre to offer the perfect alternative to the traditional pantomime. This magical production is staged by Red Rose Chain, a local theatre company that does great work with disadvantaged and marginalised communities.
Roll up! Roll up! Roll up! Charles Dickens’ most popular work is given a radical reimagining by local circus types, Lost in Translation. Expect acrobats, magic and trickery alongside the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future. “Frankly astonishing,” claims the British Theatre Guide of the production. A number of relaxed performances are also being staged for those with an autism spectrum condition or learning disability.
Aladdin in Ipswich
New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich
28 November – 1 February
The New Wolsey Theatre has earned a reputation for challenging the norms and expectations of theatre. Therefore, their take on the Christmas pantomime always offers something different. This year, that difference takes the shape of an electric injection of rock’n’roll, with the inclusion of over 20 classic songs such as I’m A Believer, Papa Don’t Preach and Highway to Hell, all played out live by the theatre’s multi-talented company of actor/musicians.
Dragon Hall Christmas Social
National Centre for Writing, Norwich
Tuesday 10 December
Norwich’s National Centre for Writing regularly hosts social meet-up evenings for writers and fans of literature in its medieval Dragon Hall HQ. These events are a great opportunity to meet likeminded people, discuss books and hear what’s coming up in Norwich’s bustling writing community. Mulled beverages and mince pies will be on offer. Admission is free although advance booking is advised.
Arthur’s Dream Boat
New Wolsey Studio, Ipswich
3 – 29 December
Based on the children’s book by Polly Dunbar, Arthur’s Dream Boat is the story of a little boy who dreams of a pink and green boat with a stripy mast. Soon, this very same boat is growing on his head, getting larger and larger by the minute. This playful children’s puppet show is produced by Long Nose Puppets, makers of Shoe Baby, Flyaway Katie, Penguin and Out of the Hat.
Snow White in Lowestoft
Marina Theatre, Lowestoft
12 December – 1 January
As well as being the most easterly pantomime in the UK, Lowestoft Marina’s production also counts singing sensation Michael Auger of Britain’s Got Talent winners Collabro amongst its cast. The traditional show promises to be bursting with great songs, fantastic dance routines, laugh-out-loud comedy and plenty of fun and silliness for all the family.
Art Forms in Nature
Ipswich Art Gallery
until 23 February
Celebrated by the Surrealists and early Modernists for his pioneering close-up images of plants and flora, German photographer Karl Blossfeldt built his own cameras and lenses that enabled him to magnify his subjects by up to 30 times. Lose yourself in his original portfolio of 40 photogravures from 1932 in this Hayward Gallery Touring exhibition.
Ipswich Biscuit Gala
Saturday 14 December
The Council Chamber, Ipswich Town Hall
People all over Suffolk have been busy baking biscuits in an effort to lift the trophy of the Ipswich Biscuit, pick up the £100 prize money and potentially see their sweet creations make it into production. The Biscuit Gala will bring together all of the finalists and will see a winner announced around 5pm. Come along for tastings, tea and opportunities to learn all about biscuits.