What’s On | December

From ABBA at the Southbank Centre and Winnie-the-Pooh at the V&A Museum to the return of Cirque du Soleil at the Royal Albert Hall, there’s a playful feel to the arts in London over the coming weeks

Cirque du Soleil

7 January – 4 March
Start the year with the life-affirming new Cirque du Soleil show, OVO, at the iconic Royal Albert Hall. A colourful carnival of crazy crickets, amazing ants and flexible fleas, OVO uncovers the natural world at our feet. A non-stop riot of energy and movement featuring many of Cirque du Soleil’s mind-blowing signature acts, including a stunning 14m-high flying trapeze – the biggest of its kind – OVO will keep the whole family buzzing. cirquedusoleil.com

Image: Emilie Holba

Ice Music

15 December
Expect Norwegian percussion musician and composer Terje Isungset to perform a chilling set thanks to the ice instruments he’s making at the Southbank Centre this month. Ice horns, an ‘iceofon’ and ice percussion, all crafted from solid blocks of pure ice, will feature, plus Norweigan vocalist Maria Skranes will join the throng for this intriguing set of jazz and Scandi music for all ages. Free event. southbankcentre.co.uk

Antony & Cleopatra

Until 20 January
One of Shakespeare’s greatest love stories, Antony & Cleopatra continues the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Rome season at the Barbican, picking up the story where Julius Caesar ends. Following Caesar’s assassination, Mark Antony has reached the heights of power. Now he neglects his empire for a life of decadent seduction with his mistress, Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt. Torn between love and duty, his military brilliance deserts him, and his passion leads the lovers to their tragic end. Iqbal Khan directs Josette Simon and Antony Byrne in the title roles and singer-songwriter Laura Mvula writes the music. barbican.org.uk; 020 7638 8891

Image: Torbjorn Calvero

ABBA: Super Troupers

14 December–29 April
Enter the world of the iconic Swedish foursome in this immersive exhibition charting ABBA’s music, lyrics, creative process and influence. Part of the Southbank Centre’s Nordic Matters season, the exhibition brings together objects from private archives and ABBA The Museum in Stockholm, including previously unseen archive material, original costumes, personal photographs and more. All the kitsch Scandi pop is set against the backdrop of 1970s Britain during a financial crisis, a wave of strikes and a three-day working week. southbankcentre.co.uk

Pencil Drawing by E.H. Shephard. The Shepard Trust, reproduced with permission from Curtis Brown

Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring A Classic

9 December–8 April
There are few creative relationships that have the capacity to dazzle countless generations of readers like those between a children’s writer and illustrator. This was certainly the case with AA Milne, the creator of Winnie-the-Pooh, and EH Shepard. The V&A will be drawing extensively from its own collection of sketches, letters, photographs and manuscripts to tell the story of the tremendous success of Hundred Acre Wood’s world-famous resident. vam.ac.uk; 020 7942 2000

Image: Idil Sukan

The Birthday Party

9 January – 14 April
Following critically-acclaimed productions of Betrayal and Old Times, Ian Rickson reunites with Sonia Friedman Productions to direct a major new revival of Harold Pinter’s The Birthday Party. Toby Jones plays Stanley Webber, the only lodger at Meg (Zoë Wanamaker) and Petey Boles’ sleepy seaside boarding house. The unsettling arrival of enigmatic strangers Goldberg (Stephen Mangan) and McCann disrupts the humdrum lives of the inhabitants and their friend Lulu, and mundanity soon becomes menace when a seemingly innocent birthday party turns into a disturbing nightmare. Truth and alliances shift in Peter’s landmark play, showing at the Harold Pinter Theatre, 60 years after the play’s debut. atgtickets.com

Image: Helen Maybanks

A Christmas Carol

Until 20 January
Rhys Ifans stars in Jack Thorne’s joyous new adaptation of Charles Dickens’ timeless classic, A Christmas Carol, at the Old Vic. On a bitter Christmas Eve night, a cold-hearted miser is visited by four ghosts. Transported to the past, present and future, Ebenezer Scrooge witnesses what a lifetime of fear and selfishness has led to and sees with fresh eyes the lonely life he has built for himself. Can Ebenezer be saved before it’s too late? Directed by Matthew Warchus. An uplifting story for families aged 11 and over. oldvictheatre.com; 0844 871 7628

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