Charles Dickens Museum

Food Glorious Food: Dinner with Dickens is a new exhibition at the Charles Dickens Museum from 28 November 2018. The house is dressed for Christmas and this year is very special as 19 December 2018 is the 175th anniversary of the publication of A Christmas Carol.

The exhibition features household culinary items used by Dickens and draws on letters and first-hand accounts by Dickens’s dinner guests to build a vivid picture of the experience of enjoying dinner with Dickens. It shows his dinner parties – full of activity, wit, comedy and people and their peculiarities – were essential food for his imagination.

The interactive exhibition examines Victorian dining, from surprising recipe combinations, such as steak and turtle, to the ways in which food was adulterated to extend its reach – acorns masquerading as coffee, plum leaves for tea leaves and the wholesale watering-down of milk and beer.

The exhibition also examines the deeper reasons for Dickens’s need to entertain and share food – his hidden childhood memories of hunger – and his belief, made clear in his stories, that rich and poor alike had the right to enjoy food and drink and that children deserved the security of proper meals.

The Charles Dickens Museum decorated for Christmas

The Charles Dickens Museum decorated for Christmas. © Jayne Lloyd

Southbank Centre

Southbank Centre’s Winter Festival returns for 2018 with spectacular light installations, brand new family shows and festive food and music from 9 November 2018 to 6 January 2019.

Two brand new family shows are at the heart of this year’s Winter programme. The award-winning puppeteers from War Horse present the European premiere of Circus 1903 (19 December-5 January). And award-winning Australian theatre companies, Windmill Theatre Co and State Theatre Company South Australia, perform their unique spin on the fantastic fairytale Rumpelstiltskin with rocking music and supreme silliness (13 December-6 January).

David Batchelor is lighting up Southbank Centre’s winter landscape. Sixty Minute Spectrum Redux (2018) illuminates the rooftops of the Hayward Gallery, Royal Festival Hall and Queen Elizabeth Hall.

The sensational New Year’s Eve Spectacular transforms the Royal Festival Hall into five floors of themed club nights, seven bars, two live acts, twelve DJs, eight dance lessons, and outdoor spaces offering the perfect view of the UK’s largest annual fireworks display.

Southbank Centre’s popular Winter Market is on from 9 November to 27 December with food, drinks and merriment under the twinkling market lights. The season also has a joyous programme of classical music, festive sing-alongs and lots of free events.

Circus 1903 - Southbank Centre

Circus 1903. © Alvin Tam

Theatre

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, adapted by Simon Stephens from the novel by Mark Haddon, and directed by Marianne Elliott (War Horse, Angels in America, Company), has returned to the West End for a limited season. The show previews at the Piccadilly Theatre on 29 November 2018, with an opening night on 11 December 2018. Tickets are available until 27 April 2019.

Curious Incident, which has now been seen by more than three million people worldwide, transferred to London’s West End following a sold-out run at the National Theatre’s Cottesloe Theatre in September 2012. It is the recipient of seven 2013 Olivier Awards, including Best New Play, Best Director, Best Design, Best Lighting Design and Best Sound Design – more Olivier’s than any other play in the history of London’s West End at that time.

Curious Incident 2017-18 international touring cast. Photo by BrinkhoffMögenburg

Photo by Brinkhoff Mögenburg

The Nutcracker

This is one of my favourite Christmas traditions: seeing the English National Ballet perform The Nutcracker at the London Coliseum. It’s on from 13 December to 30 December 2018 and is festive brilliance.

Over 100 dancers and musicians bring the story to life with exquisite dancing, beautiful sets and Tchaikovsky’s glorious score played live. On a sparkling Christmas Eve in a frost-dusted Edwardian London, Clara and her enchanted Nutcracker doll discover a magical world, where she battles with the Mouse King and meets a handsome stranger. As the air grows colder, Clara and her valiant Nutcracker take a hot air balloon ride across London to the glistening Land of Snow where her adventure really begins.

For an excellent alternative (as the ENB shows do usually all sell out) The Birmingham Royal Ballet is performing The Nutcracker at the Royal Albert Hall from 28 to 31 December 2018.

English National Ballet's Nutcracker (C) Laurent Liotardo

English National Ballet’s Nutcracker © Laurent Liotardo

Barbican

There’s more than a hint of reality TV to this modern production of Shakespeare’s hilarious comedy, The Merry Wives of Windsor, performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Down on his luck in the suburbs, Sir John Falstaff plans to hustle his way to a comfortable retirement by seducing the wives of two wealthy men. Unknown to him, it’s the women of Windsor who really pull the strings, orchestrating his comeuppance amid a theatrical smorgasbord of petty rivalries, jealousies and over-inflated egos.

For a fat Englishman, a Welshman and a Frenchman, the only way is Windsor. Performances are from 7 December 2018 to 5 January 2019.

The Merry Wives of Windsor - Barbican

Photo by Manuel Harlan © RSC

Ice Skating

The Somerset House Edmond J. Safra Fountain courtyard is the backdrop to one of London’s most beautiful ice rinks with Skate at Somerset House. You can skate day or night with family and friends and Skate Lates features an extra special series of music nights throughout the season. Après-skate, treat yourself at Fortnum’s Lodge with Skate Extras – all designed for two to share. You can also do your gift shopping as Fortnum’s Christmas Arcade is back too.

Ice skate at the Tower of London means you can do your Bambi impression with the iconic historical landmark as your backdrop. The 1040m² rink in the moat is fun for all ages and abilities. The Tower of London Ice Rink gets an extra helping of stunning in the evenings when the lights set against the castle wall adding to the dramatic views.

Tower of London Ice Rink

Greenwich

The Cutty Sark has a seafaring extravaganza with the Christmas at Sea with Merry Opera concert on 16 December 2018. Held under the ship’s gleaming copper hull, the concert includes Mozart, Verdi, Puccini, Gilbert & Sullivan, sea shanties and a reading of Robert Louis Stevenson’s much-loved poem Christmas at Sea which is 150 years old this year. Tickets include a mulled cider and mince pie slice.

Cutty Sark - Snow on Ropes

Note: Christmas Day is on 25 December and, unlike the US, most shops and attractions are closed so central London is relatively quiet for this one day of the year. There is also no public transport all day.

Even More

If you would like even more ideas for this month, do have a look at last month’s recommendations as many are still valid for December too.

LOOKING AHEAD

Cate Blanchett is making her National Theatre debut in When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other (Twelve Variations on Samuel Richardson’s Pamela) from 16 January 2019. She’s performing alongside Stephen Dillane who is returning to the National Theatre for the first time since The Coast of Utopia in 2002. Martin Crimp’s play breaks through the surface of contemporary debate to explore the messy, often violent nature of desire, and the fluid, complicated roles that men and women play.

Laura Linney will be returning to The Bridge Theatre in My Name is Lucy Barton for 26 performances only, after a sell-out run this June. Performances begin 23 January 2019.

In more theatre news, West End favourites Kinky Boots and Dreamgirls are both closing on 12 January 2019, and 42nd Street closes on 5 January 2019. Come From Away opens at the Phoenix Theatre on 30 January 2019.

London Art Fair returns to the UK capital from 16 to 20 January 2019 to open the international art calendar next year. The Fair connects both seasoned and aspiring collectors with the best galleries from around the world, providing them with a unique opportunity to discover exceptional modern and contemporary art, from prints and editions to major works by internationally renowned artists.

Pierre Bonnard: The Colour of Memory opens at Tate Modern on 23 January 2019. It is the first major exhibition of Pierre Bonnard’s work in the UK for 20 years and includes major works from public and private collections around the world. It celebrates the achievements of this innovative and much-loved French painter, as well as reasserting his position as one of the greatest colourists of the early twentieth century.

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Do check out the latest offers as London Bridge Hotel has weekend rates from as low as £99. And when you can’t be at the hotel, you can try making the Quarter Bar’s cocktails with these recipes.

Laura Porter writes AboutLondonLaura.com and contributes to many other publications while maintaining an impressive afternoon tea addiction. You can find Laura on Twitter as @AboutLondon, on Instagram as @AboutLondon and on Facebook as AboutLondonLaura.

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