Christmas is of course a time of great tradition. For many, it is a chance to spend time with their family, others like to overindulge in food and drink and, for a happy few, the Christmas works do is a chance to eye up Jill from accounts with relative impunity.
People also like to treat themselves and their families at Christmas - and not just to gifts and enormous portions of food, but to one-off trips and evenings out. And what better treat than a trip to the theatre.
Christmas is a very busy time in theatreland and a number of shows schedule extra or special (or extra-special) performances over the holiday. Anticipating a rush for tickets, many exclude the dates from general sale and release the tickets for sale around six months ahead. So, around now.
We've picked a handful of standout shows for Christmas 2011 - you should try to get to at least one. Tickets are available now.
The brainchild of Russian performance artist Slava Polunin, Slava's Snowshow is a show like no other. A marriage of theatrical clowning and stunning stage production, it is performed by the internationally renowned company of clowns, led by Polunin. The Snowshow is returning to London after a 15-year absence. Royal Festival Hall, 11th December to 8th January 2012. Tickets from £27.50.
The musical about post-war rationing, a pig and a royal wedding continues its run at the Novello theatre. Based on the Alan Bennett film 'A Private Function', Betty Blue Eyes features an original 'retro' score telling the story of how, in 1947, a pig ('Betty') was illegally reared to ensure local dignitaries could celebrate the wedding of Elizabeth and Philip with a banquet. Now booking until 28th January 2012, tickets from £39.50.
Superlative-laden global mega-hit musical about released prisoner Jean Valjean and his search for redemption against a backdrop of the French Revolution. Based on Victor Hugo's 1862 novel, the show debuted in Paris in 1980. Les Misérables continues its run at the Queen's Theatre, now booking to April 2012. Tickets for 19th to 31st December 2011 have just been released, starting at £42.50.
The musical about Aussie drag queens on a bus (called Priscilla), roadtripping across the outback is adapted from the 1994 film of nearly the same name ('The Adventures of...'). Priscilla has been charming UK audiences since its 2009 Palace Theatre debut, with its score of pop hits including 'Downtown', 'Venus' and Charlene's country crossover classic 'I've Never Been to Me'. Now booking to 7th January 2012. Tickets £20 to £95.
The most successful show in the history of musical theatre, based on Gaston Leroux's 'Le Fantôme de l'Opéra', opened in London in 1986 and was an instant hit. With revenues in the billions, the soundtrack alone has sold 40 million copies. It is a West End classic like no other and what better time for a ghost story than Christmas. Now at Her Majesty's Theatre, tickets have just been released for 19th to 31st December, priced £20 to £75.
Bizarre, risqué and famously unpredictable, La Soirée is an edgy adult cabaret and variety show, in which anything goes. The La Soirée ensemble is drawn from a collective of around 25 artists including burlesque dancers, comedians, circus sideshow and contemporary vaudeville acts. Camden Roundhouse, 23rd November until 29th January 2012. Tickets from £25. Strictly no under-18s.
One of the most popular dance productions ever staged in the UK, Matthew Bourne's Nutcracker! returns to Sadler's Wells with a limited seven-week Christmas run. Tchaikovsky's glorious score performed by a live orchestra and Anthony Ward's unforgettable sets and costumes combine with sizzling choreography to create a fresh interpretation of the traditional Christmas favourite. From 6th December to 22nd January 2012, tickets start at £10.