The Camberwell Society

Society for those living, working or interested in Camberwell

Let your hair down at Christmas theatre



FROM THE CAMBERWELL QUARTERLY

Christmas is fast approaching and local theatres are preparing for the season of goodwill with some great entertainment. Jade van Zuydam takes a look at what’s on offer

When December winds have you clutching your scarf, your nose runs and your hands numb, you know that Winter has arrived. But there is an underlying joviality that comes with this harsh season: dim-lit pubs, board games, frosty walks and spotting the lone robin in the park. There is mulled wine, cheerful songs and the giving of gifts. Most of all, it is the time of year for music and the Arts.

On gloomy nights and chilly days, many Londoners find solace indoors at cinemas, theatres and museums. Although you might be thinking “Brrr, baby it’s cold outside” there’s no need to watch canned Christmas television repeats and dream of holidays in the Bahamas because there are a whole host of local activities on your doorstep, including at some of south-east London's most iconic theatres.

Camberwell and Peckham are hotspots for creativity with an eclectic mix of artists, writers and musicians, who enthusiastically embrace the mighty Christmas spirit. While several venues - the Lighthouse Theatre, Brixton House and Golden Goose Theatre - will host seasonal shows, two local gems, Theatre Peckham and St Giles Church, stand out as particularly lively contributors to the holiday festivities.

Theatre Peckham, which champions underrepresented voices, has put on a Christmas show in the style of a musical pantomime for thirty-five years, and this year’s Yuletide cracker, Rapunzel, (December 5-24) will do just that again.

It is a modern twist that sets the Brothers Grimm fairytale inside a Peckham hair salon and creates a magical tale that explores hair, individuality, and empowerment, and promises singing, dancing, high energy, and a hilarious script.

“Our goal is to choose a traditional Christmas title and then make it relevant to our southeast London area,” says the theatre’s artistic director and chief executive Suzann McLean.

Performed by five professional actors and twenty-four young talents from Theatre Peckham's academy (ages 8-16), the Christmas show is a pivotal moment in the calendar for their budding performers. It provides a unique chance to work with professionals and serves as a pipeline into the industry. Notably, A-list actor and Peckham native John Boyega launched his career here.

Theatre Peckham's essence lies in its deep community connection, particularly captured during the Christmas season when we reflect on love, friendship, and being together. As Suzann puts it, “it’s about enjoying a story that resonates with your own community at your local theatre.”

Don't miss this all-ages experience, written by Geoffrey Aymer, composed by Jordan Xavier, and directed by Suzann McLean. Tickets for the preview on Tuesday, December 5th, are priced at £10, with discounted rates available for Southwark and Peckham residents.

More Christmas magic will take place under the ancient arches of St Giles church. Although still a working church, St Giles is embracing modernity by extending itself as an events and music venue, inviting people to continue appreciating and utilising the beautiful space. This December, it will host a free Advent Carol Service (Sunday, December 17) following the traditional format of nine carols and nine readings. This is the most enchanting of services: as night falls, the entire church will be candlelit. Auburn glows on the stained glass, and the entire hall – incensed and quietly buzzing – radiates, raising hairs and lifting hearts. Afterwards, everyone can gather to enjoy mulled wine and mince pies.

For a less conventional but magically bonkers evening at St Giles, don't miss Camberwell's original Organoke (December 9-10). With karaoke classics performed on an organ with a live band, it’s described by organisers as “the most joyous thing you'll ever see.” Think Christmas jumpers, beers, and a merry crowd embracing and belting out classics like The Pogues’ Fairytale of New York and George Michael’s Last Christmas. The church's high, vaulted ceiling even provides those excellent acoustics. Organoke began in 2016 to preserve the historic organ designed by Charles Wesley and has since spread across the country. Tickets sell out fast, so be sure to book. 70 per cent of all event fees go back into maintaining the church.

All of these festive productions are truly “local events by local people.” They are emblematic of Camberwell and Peckham’s vibrant, community-focused, and creative identity. They promise not only to warm your spirit, but to reaffirm that our treasured neighbourhood is the common thread that unites us all, akin to one great family, gathered around the Christmas table.

Some of the other events include: Brixton House (Cinderella, 21 November to 31 December), Theatre Peckham (Oruru: Carnival of Legends 25 November), Golden Goose Theatre (The Mitfords 1-11 November, Venom 14-18 November) and Longfield Hall (A Choral Christmas 16 December, Pre New Year’s Eve Party 29 December)

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The Camberwell Society was formed in 1970 and is the recognised amenity society for those living, working or interested in Camberwell.

The Society’s objectives, as defined by our constitution, are: to stimulate public interest in Camberwell, to promote high standards of planning and architecture in Camberwell, and to secure the preservation, protection, development and improvement of features of historic or public interest in Camberwell.

We are a charity and raise money for local charities. In the past we have raised money for Southside Rehabilitation Association, St Giles Trust, Cambridge House, the CamberwellCommunity Choir, the HollingtonYouth Centre and the Camberwell Arts Festival