Wednesday 24th February

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30 CHRISTMASES - Production Image (3), image by Josh Tomalin

Thirty Christmases review


Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer and Reviewer

A marvellous musical comedy that manages to turn family trauma into heart-warming festive fare.

The story of a brother and sister trying to come to terms with a traumatic event may not sound like the most promising basis for a feelgood Christmas production, but few shows have quite so much festive soul as Thirty Christmases.

Part of that stems from the acting on display, with Jonny Donahoe, Rachel Parris and Paddy Gervers comfortably translating the warmth and humour of their comedy onto the stage.  But it’s mainly in the writing, with Donahoe managing to merge a cynical deconstruction of this objectively absurd annual event with sufficient affection and positivity about the human spirit.

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Category: Comedy
30 CHRISTMASES - Promo Image (1), image by Anna Soderblom

Jonny Donahoe: “If Christmas resonates of loss, grief or even guilt, you can’t escape that.”

Next week, rebellious musical comedy Thirty Christmases makes its London debut.  The brainchild of playwright, actor and musical comedian Jonny Donahoe – who stars in the show alongside Rachel Parris and Paddy Gervers – offers an intriguing alternative to more traditional glitzy festive fare.  

Ahead of the three-week run at New Diorama Theatre, Ian Cater caught up with the engaging Donahoe to discuss the show’s origins, and a host of topics ranging from Victoria Wood to reindeer sex.

For Andy Williams, Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year.  “But for a lot of people, it’s traumatic,” Jonny Donahoe explains, with the patient, persuasive voice of his Every Brilliant Thing character, rather than the booming baritone heard at a Jonny and the Baptists gig.  “If it resonates of loss, grief or even guilt, you can’t escape that.  And it’s compounded by the fact that everywhere you go people are signposting that they’re having a joyous time.”

That harsh reality forms the backdrop to Thirty Christmases, written and performed this month by Donahoe at Euston’s New Diorama Theatre.  If it sounds a heavy premise for a festive show, that was the 34-year-old’s intention.

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Category: Comedy
A Christmas Carol © Arts Theatre
A Christmas Carol © Arts Theatre

A Christmas Carol: Simon Callow’s one-man carol is a treat for all this Christmas


Simon Callow’s one-man narration of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol comes to an end this Saturday after a successful run at The Arts Theatre.  As Sandip Kana writes for What’s On London, you should catch this mesmerising piece of theatre – acted by a truly great British actor – while you can.  

Now over 170 years old, A Christmas Carol is one of the best-known stories around, but director Tom Cairns has skilfully stripped it back to the novel’s bare essentials.  This means it lacks some of the trappings of a great, lavish West End Christmas production.  However, Cairns shows that all you really need is a fine actor and a minimalist stage to create a stunning narration.  The end result is elegant, beautiful and magical.

Simon Callow in A Christmas Carol © Arts Theatre

Simon Callow in A Christmas Carol
© Arts Theatre

From the moment Simon Callow step out onto The Arts Theatre stage – bare apart from a few stools and fairy lights – in a simple raincoat and scarf, he captures and controls the audience with great ease.  He effortlessly brings to life all the characters from the novel, including of course the miserable Scrooge, Tiny Tim and the rest of the delightful Crotchet family, subtly driving the energy and emotion of the production.

Callow has shown time and time again – as he does here – that he is a master, or perhaps the master, of Dickens’ prose.  There’s none better at portraying the social indignation, humour and raw emotion necessary for a production such as this to soar to great heights.

And soar it does, even when cut into a 70-minute performance.  For this, both Cairns and Callow deserve enormous credit.  However, a fair slice must also go to Dickens, who reminds us that despite writing so long ago, his works have lost none of their meaning or relevance.

A Christmas Carol is being performed at The Arts Theatre in The West End until Saturday 7 January 2017, starting at 7.45 pm.  For tickets, head to the theatre’s official website.

Category: Theatre




Exclusive evening event to be held for first time this festive season

Available on Thursday 3rd December and open to over 18s only


Harry Potter fans will find something extra special behind the Great Hall doors this Christmas as Warner Bros. Studio Tour London hosts its first ever festive feast on the iconic set.

On Thursday 3rd December, guests attending ‘Dinner in the Great Hall’ will be greeted on arrival with welcome drinks and canapés. They’ll then take their seats on the actual set that was used during filming – finding wands waiting for them at their tables – before enjoying the first two courses of a delicious Christmas dinner with all the trimmings (vegetarian option also available*)!

During production, the impressive set was decorated for festive scenes and, this Christmas, the Great Hall will be redressed with the authentic props used in the first Harry Potter film as part of the attraction’s Hogwarts in the Snow feature, running from Friday 13th November – Sunday 31st January 2016. Trees adorned with golden baubles shaped like moons and partridges will line the set, while a replica feast will sit atop the long tables (including flaming Christmas puddings and hams studded with cherries).

First featured in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the Great Hall was home to Hogwarts’ famous feasts and the setting for many other memorable scenes such as the Sorting Ceremony in the first film where Harry is placed in Gryffindor house and the arrival of the Durmstrang and Beauxbatons students in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

After dinner, guests will be able to explore the Studio Tour, admiring sets such as the Gryffindor common room and the Weasley’s kitchen from The Burrow, which will also be dressed as they were for winter scenes. On the attraction’s newly-opened Platform 9 ¾ – which features the original Hogwarts Express locomotive – a selection of three festive dessert bowls will be served.

 Butterbeer will also be provided in the backlot café and guests will then have the opportunity to walk up the wizarding shopping street, Diagon Alley, before taking in the breathtaking Hogwarts castle model (covered in a layer of filmmaking snow especially for the festive season). The snow is hand-sprinkled onto the majestic model and is made from a combination of paper and salt – chosen because it clumps like real snowflakes and catches the light like ice.

The evening will conclude with music and dancing, with a bar provided for those who wish to purchase additional drinks.

The Studio Tour’s first ever ‘Dinner in the Great Hall’ will take place on Thursday 3rd December from 6pm until midnight and is open to over 18s only. Guests will be seated at tables of 10 and tickets are priced at £230pp (available to purchase at or by calling the attraction’s Visitor Services Team on 0845 084 0900).

Tickets include welcome drinks and canapés on arrival, a two-course dinner in the iconic Great Hall set (with drinks, a Christmas cracker and a wand** as well as the option of a vegetarian alternative*), a trio of different festive dessert bowls on Platform 9 ¾, a cup of Butterbeer in the backlot café, the chance to explore the Studio Tour, as well as music and dancing to conclude the evening.

A free cloakroom is available and this will be open for guests on the night, with a shuttle bus running to the event at 5.40pm from Watford Junction and return services leaving the Studio Tour throughout the evening (£2pp return).

Category: Things to do
The Snowman
The Snowman at the Peacock Theatre

The Snowman: A snowtastic show filled with all the traditions of Christmas


The Birmingham Repertory Theatre production (BRT) of The Snowman will melt away the harshness of even the coldest winter days. Set in a visually stunning snow-globe be prepared to take flight to a magical winter wonderland, surrounded by all your favourite Christmas characters, and filled with music that will delight both young and old. The Snowman returns at the Peacock Theatre for a sixteenth consecutive year cuddlier, funnier and more heartfelt than ever before.

Raymond Brigg’s The Snowman is a timeless classic, which has been revived by the BRT. Just like the book, and subsequent film, the show tells the story without a single word being uttered. It truly is a unique West End production, and most definitely the best Christmas show of the year. Through dance, music, and special effects, the Snowman’s winter wonderland comes alive on stage in a spectacular wintry fashion. Howard Blake’s score includes the family favourite ‘Walking in the Air’ accompanied by the flying Snowman and Boy. It’s a spine-tingling moment when the Boy takes flight with his new best friend, while Susan Monnox’s ‘Walking in the Air’ plays in the background.

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Category: Kids
Redeveloped Leicester Square
By Romazur (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Ruby Blue: Got the blues, somewhat reddened too


Went to ‘Ruby Blue’ in Leicester Square on a Saturday night with seven female colleagues. Lucky man, you should think. I’d paid £40 in advance for: a small bowl of soup; a plate of pasta; a slice of cheesecake. A sprig of rocket here, a sprinkle of icing-sugar there, but you can’t disguise foil-marked pastry. No entertainment, an empty piano, and to say lack of service an understatement. The staff were indeed busy, chatting away at the desk; we garnered no less than four attendants at our table. Certainly no bargains on the painfully pricey wine list. Our first bottle was £29, an overpoweringly lemony Dashwood.

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Category: Restaurants