UK

Kids Week London – the best of the West End

“It’s a bear!” squealed my daughter, whose jaw had only just finished dropping at the impressive gilt decoration and plush velvet of the Apollo Theatre in the West End – invited along for the preview of the annual Kids Week London which has launched again for 2018, we had a new convert before the (metaphorical) curtain even went up.

The cast of We're Going on a Bear Hunt, including bear, on the stage at the Apollo Theatre during the preview for Kids Week London 2018, with discounts on children's tickets for West End shows

Although she’s been to open air theatre and some toddler-friendly performances, we haven’t made it to a full West End show yet – most of her theatre knowledge, she proudly informed me, comes from the Paddington books.

So just as I had started to think tickets (or theatre vouchers) would be a perfect sixth birthday present, we got our invitation to find out more about Kids Week and the family-friendly shows on in the West End. Ideal!

Because it’s the perfect way to introduce children to the theatre: those aged 16 and under can get free tickets to selected performances during August when they’re accompanied by a full-paying adult – and you can get half-price tickets for up to two more kids. The fact that Kids Week now runs for a month is a pretty good indicator of just how popular it is!

I remember visiting my grandparents in London when I was younger, taking turns with my brother to pick which musical we wanted to watch – the half-price ticket booth on Leicester Square was a regular first stop, but I’m sure my mum would have loved the discounts too. And if my teenage memories are of big name shows like Cats, Miss Saigon and Les Miserables (among others), there’s an impressive amount for younger kids these days.

I’m Going On A Bear Hunt and The Tiger That Came To Tea were both huge favourites when Minnie was younger, books we read over and over. At the grand old age of six, she considers herself too grown up now… until the huge furry bear made his appearance in the stalls (and later on stage), and the tiger, having demolished plates of magically disappearing sandwiches and buns, started to do aerobics.

At the older end of the scale, there are shows such as Six The Musical (about Henry VIII’s six wives, reimagined as pop princesses) and Everyone’s Talking About Jamie, not to mention a very louche Richard III from Horrible Histories or the slapstick farce of The Comedy About A Bank Robbery.

And our preview gave the young audience a glimpse behind the scenes too: the impressive sets designed for the West End shows, the unseen sound and lighting technicians who help create the full effect, the musicians tucked away providing the soundtrack. They even got a display of different dance styles from two of Strictly Ballroom’s experts.

Even more exciting, a Q&A with two young stars of The Lion King who play Simba and Nala: not much older than my daughter, she looked on open-mouthed at the thought they would be appearing on a stage like this. A far cry from her after-school drama club.

But the highlight was Matilda. Top of our list for those theatre tokens, one of Minnie’s favourite stories, as soon as the lead character started to sing, any hint of restlessness among the smaller members of the audience vanished – no mean feat considering they had been sitting still for around 90 minutes.

Forget Paddington’s escapades, forget our cinema trips – which she’d also loftily compared a theatre visit to before we set out for the day. The magic of the theatre had captured her too.

Need to know: Kids Week London deals

Children aged 16 and under can get free theatre tickets to selected performances when accompanied by a paying adult, as well as the option to buy up to two extra kids’ tickets at half price. For full terms and conditions, please see here. There is a limit to the number of tickets you can book for any show (and a limit to the total number available), but you can use theatre tokens to book if you call up.

You can filter your search by age group as well, including options for under fives – it’s worth bearing in mind that some theatres are strict about enforcing age guidelines if you’re visiting with younger children.

Many shows participating in Kids Week offer a free activity too, usually before or after a show, such as workshops or Q&As. They are only available on selected dates and must be booked as part of a Show & Activity package. For more details and to download a free activity sheet, visit the Kids Week London FAQ page.

There are also extra deals and events as part of August’s Kids Week discounts, including offers on food. MOD Pizza, just off Leicester Square, has a kids eat free offer on their mini pizzas – and after eating there, it’s firmly on our list of favourites as you can customise your own pizzas and salads, along with ordering from the menu.

Both very impressed with our own creations, we only stopped eating when there was no more room… in Minnie’s case, partly because she had guzzled a huge chocolate milkshake with mint choc chip crunchy bits.

My daughter watches the dancing fountains in Leicester Square, where other family events are also running for Kids Week London 2018, with discounts on children's tickets for West End shows

There are also open air screenings of family films, such as The Incredibles, The Lego Movie and Finding Nemo in Leicester Square Garden during the weekends of August 4-5 and 11-12, with space for up to 750 (grab a bean bag or bring your own picnic blanket). And get two-for-one entry for adults with ‘kids go free’ at the new Michael Jackson On the Wall exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery

Disclosure: Our invitation to the preview performance and meal at MOD Pizza was courtesy of Kids Week London. All opinions and excited six-year-olds are my own.

PIN FOR LATER: KIDS WEEK LONDON 2018

A preview of Kids Week London 2018, with discounts on children's tickets for West End shows during August. My six-year-old's first visit to London's West End theatres showcased some of the top family shows and musicals currently on stage, from options for under fives up to shows for teens #londonuk #londonwestend #discountlondon #londontheatre #kidsweek #kidsweeklondon #mummytravels

Images copyright MummyTravels

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