Welcome to the third and final part of my Christmas Favourites series for this year. The first 2 parts were all about my favourite food and fashion and entertainment. Here I’m going to talk about the festive activities that I’ve been enjoying in London this year, including theatre shows, light displays and walks, among other things (but not Christmas meals, as they’re in the Food post).
Note: I updated this post regularly to cover all of my festive activities, so despite the publication date, the final revision was actually on January 11th 2019.
So I hope you enjoy reading about my yuletide adventures this year. There’s also a video to go with this post too. And don’t forget to check out my other Christmas posts & lists if this isn’t enough for you.
This is the last thing I did for Christmas. In fact, it happened on January 8th, after the 12 days of Christmas had technically finished. But I wanted to mention it first because it was easily one of my favourite Christmas activities this year, and it’s the only thing I’ve written a separate dedicated post about. So I’m not going to say a lot here.
But in short, it was a wonderfully festive, immersive, fun and moving production. Stephen Tompkinson played Scrooge perfectly, and during the touch tour we got to meet a wonderful young boy called Leo Lake, who plays Tiny Tim (one of 4 disabled children who share the role), as well as Michael Rouse, who plays a couple of roles including Jacob Marley. The music, costumes and lighting also enhanced the experience wonderfully. And the audio description was really useful too. So please do check out my review for the full details, as I had an amazing time.
It’s A Wonderful Life
My first bit of festive entertainment was a trip to the Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square, which is well known for showing lots of classic older films as well as more modern ones, and they often do special events such as sing-alongs and epic movie marathons. So they’re well worth checking out if you like classic films. I saw the original Halloween film there last year.
On this occasion I saw a film that I’ve never watched before, even though it’s been hugely popular for decades. It’s A Wonderful Life dates from 1946, and stars James Stewart and Donna Reed, and was being presented in a 4K restoration apparently. My eyesight isn’t good enough to confirm that, but nevertheless the picture did seem very clean for such an old film, as far as I could tell, and the sound was great too. This wasn’t the colourised edition that I’ve heard about either, this was the original black and white film. And it was really good, better than I expected it might be, given its age and my love of more modern movies.
It’s a very sweet story about a man who works hard to help others, and when everything seems to go very wrong a guardian angel shows what life in the town would have been like if he hadn’t existed. That might not sound like much when worded so simply, but it actually works well. And what surprised me and helped me to enjoy it was how funny it was. There was a lot of humour in the script and a lot of comedic moments, more than I’d expected. Although the movie is of its time, the humour hasn’t dated, it still holds up, which is no mean feat. There were people of all ages in the cinema, and we were all chuckling regularly throughout, and getting absorbed in the more emotional moments.
So even though it does actually get quite dark at one point, given the reason for the guardian angel’s appearance, it doesn’t drag the movie down and make it depressing, because the guardian angel himself is also very funny, as well as having an important role to play in the man’s decision making. It all helps the movie to convey a lovely message by the time you reach the end – which, being a Christmas film, is of course a happy ending. Given that the movie is over 70 years old, I don’t think it’s really a spoiler to say that!
So I finally understand why people like it so much. It’s not a movie I would watch every single year, like some people traditionally do. But I would be happy to watch it again in the future, and I’m very glad I’ve seen it to understand what all the fuss is about. If you’ve never seen it before, I do recommend checking it out, if you see it pop up on the TV or online or in a cinema. Don’t be put off by how old it is, it’s still great.
Dick Whittington Pantomime
Pantomimes are also an essential part of Christmas, and this year I went to the Lyric Hammersmith‘s 10th anniversary pantomime, Dick Whittington. This is yet another new theatre venue for me, and it’s a lovely place. And, as per usual, there was a touch tour and audio description, which were very useful.
For the touch tour, we were brought on to the stage, which had lots of brightly coloured sets, props and costumes that we had fun looking at, and cartoon-like scenery representing parts of London. And we also got to meet a few members of the ensemble cast, plus the guy playing Dick Whittington himself, who were very friendly and happy to chat to us. It’s always very generous of cast members to do this considering they have to get ready for the show, but it was especially appreciated here because they had just finished a matinee performance that had run a little bit late, and hadn’t had much time to rest. So that was really kind of them.
And the show itself was great. It was basically about Dick Whittington coming to London to seek his fortune after moving from Wales, and he ends up becoming Lord Mayor to stop the Queen Rat from getting the job, as well as falling in love with a girl named Alice. It was really funny all the way through, with lots of comedy for the adults as well as the children. It included various Dick gags as you can imagine with a name like Dick Whittington – all done in good taste of course, there was nothing that wasn’t family friendly here. And they also made a few topical jokes about Brexit and references to social media, as well as general fun wordplay and silly situations. And even if there was a slight fluffing of lines once or twice, they dealt with it brilliantly, with some enjoyable ad-libs. You could tell they really enjoyed doing the show, which is why it worked so well.
It was also very lively, with lots of great singing and dancing performances, and lots of interactivity in the usual panto style, with things for us to call out, sing along with and even dance along to. And the audio description worked great. It was really useful throughout the show and there were no technical issues. Even when we had to sing a song near the end, the describer was reading the next line to us through our headsets while we were getting to the end of the previous one, to keep us in the loop. Sure, it was a song we all knew anyway – the chorus to I Wanna Dance With Somebody by Whitney Houston – but it still really helped.
So we came out of that feeling very happy, and it’s a theatre I’ll definitely keep an eye on for future shows, not just pantomimes but also other productions. It’s well worth a visit.
Carols From Around The World
There are always lots of concerts that go on at this time of year, some on a much bigger scale than others. Last year I went to Christmas With The Stars at the Royal Albert Hall, so this year I went to a much smaller venue – a church. I’m not religious and thus not normally a churchgoer, but I do make an exception for Christmas carols, because they are lovely to listen to and do help you feel very festive.
So I went to see Carols From Around The World 2018 at St. Saviour’s in Pimlico, and it was a wonderful evening in a beautiful building. The Colla Voce Singers were amazing, and sang a variety of carols from different countries, some of which I knew and some of which were very unfamiliar, so there was a nice variety. And they were all beautifully performed. The harmonies all sounded great as they echoed around the church, and the carols I knew had some fun and original arrangements that I’d never heard before. So it was a very uplifting occasion, and we were all invited to sing along with a couple of the carols as well.
Then at the end, the conductor, who had been happily talking to us in between the songs, did a performance of O Holy Night, revealing an astonishing singing voice of his own! He was incredible. And that was followed by a wonderful medley of a few carols by the choir that was arranged really beautifully. Neither of those performances had been in the printed programme, so they were lovely surprises to finish the evening with, and we all left in a very happy, festive mood. They do that concert every year, so I recommend looking out for it next year if you enjoy carols and choirs.
A Time Traveller’s Christmas
I also spent an afternoon at a National Trust property, by going to see A Time Traveller’s Christmas at Fenton House. They had decked out different rooms in the house to represent different eras of Christmas as they would have been celebrated, particularly the Georgian, Victorian, 1920s and 1970s periods (click those links for my Instagram photo sets).
The 1970s room was most relatable to me, despite being a child of the 80s and 90s, as many of the games, foods and other items on offer were still familiar and brought back fond memories of my childhood. But all of the rooms were beautifully decorated and very interesting to look around. They had a lot of musical instruments there, including old harpsichords and lutes, which were nice to see. The view from the roof balcony was lovely as well, despite it being a cloudy day.
Christmas At London Zoo
For my final outing of the year, I went to see Christmas At London Zoo, where they’ve had a Christmas lights trail taking you all through the attraction, with lit-up animal figures, trees, light tunnels and so on, along with food stalls, fairground rides, merchandise you could buy. It was a lovely walk, as all the lights looked very pretty, and the animal figures and light tunnels were very impressive.
There were parts of the path that were very dark, in order to avoid disturbing the sleeping animals, so I couldn’t see where I was putting my feet in those cases. But by walking slowly and carefully, following other members of the public along the way, I was fine.
I’ve also posted a video from my walk around Regent’s Park earlier that afternoon, where I saw a squirrel and watched some of the birds by the lake. And after my visit to the zoo I finished the evening with a walk along Oxford Street & Regent Street, to see some of the Christmas lights and displays (click those links for photos). So it was a lovely long walk to finish off 2018 and get rid of just a few of the many calories I’ve consumed this Christmas!
So that’s it. I’m delighted that I managed enjoy so many things this Christmas, it’s been a really nice variety. So I hope you found this post interesting, and I hope you had a lovely Christmas as well, whatever you got up to!