Back at the beginning of the pandemic, online theatre was in its infancy and we started this guide as a way of keeping track of what was available for families to watch. Nearly a year on, there has been an absolute explosion of online theatre for all ages, and it’s become impossible for us to keep it comprehensive. So from now on this is going to be a place where you can find our top tips, including shows that we have tried and tested and others that we like the look of. As before, we will endeavour to keep it updated as often as possible. We also welcome contact from creatives who would like to be featured.
The guide is now divided into the following sections:
Where to watch: Here you will find a list of some of our favourite theatre companies who regularly put out online content for young audiences, as well as a link to a fabulous new website with tons of instantly playable content!
What to watch: This is where you can find our recommendations for what to watch, from shows that we have tried and tested to those we like the look of. This guide is organised by age range.
For more suggestions, follow us on Twitter (@stage_family) where we regularly share the latest news about children’s theatre. You can also find use on Facebook (@TheFamilyStage) where we are slightly less active but still share stuff where we can. Or feel free to follow us on Instagram (@TheFamilyStage) which Mummy doesn’t understand at all but more followers might encourage her to do something on there too!
Where to watch: The best places to find family friendly digital theatre
What to watch: Family favourites and things we like the look of
In this section we highlight the shows that we have tried and tested, as well as others we like the look of. We’ve divided the guide roughly into age groups, but there is inevitably some overlap.
Recommended for Early Years
Kaleidoscope Concert (Filskit Theatre via Oxford Playhouse, Saturday 14 November): Suitable for 6-18 months
Inspired by research into how a baby’s sense of sight develops and how they instinctively begin to categorise colour, watch as a multi-coloured Kaleidoscope is brought to life for you and your baby. Adapted from our original theatre production, Kaleidoscope Concert features sounds from live musicians, visuals and sensory activities in order for parents and babies to explore colour together. Find out more and book here.
Snow Mouse (The Egg, Bath and Travelling Light Theatre Company): Suitable for ages 0-4
This production has played several successful festive seasons at The Egg, Bath as well as a national tour. Featuring play, puppetry and music, it’s the perfect introduction to live(ish) theatre for little ones. This is the link to the recording.
Tales TV (Chickenshed Theatre): Suitable for ages 0-6
Catch up on Tales TV, brought to you by the amazing Tales from the Shed team at Chickenshed Theatre. Streamed weekly during lockdown, each episode includes something different. Tune in for a story, a song, learn a dance or some sign language or maybe just watch Blurgh and his friends do something silly. Tales TV is perfect for children aged 0-6 years (and their grown-ups too of course)! Episodes are approximately 10-15 minutes in length. Watch the first episode below then head to the Chickenshed Website to catch up on the rest.
Teddy Bears’ Picnic (Let’s All Dance): Suitable for ages 0-8
Let’s All Dance specialise in family friendly ballet performances. If you go down to YouTube today, you can watch their production of Teddy Bear’s Picnic. The recording is free but they are asking for donations to their Go Fund Me campaign. You might also be interested in our review of their 2019 production of The Nutcracker
Recommended for Key Stage 1
Play-Along Plink and Boo (Can’t Sit Still): Suitable for ages 2-6
Some might be Plink and others are Boo
Why does it matter, what’s the to-do?
Jumbled up people and boxes too small;
Let’s make a den and discover it all…
Can’t Sit Still have been busy adapting their circus adventure, Plink & Boo, for digital delivery and it’s now out on a digital tour.
There are plenty of pre-show resources on the website (where you can also find the latest tour dates), including instructions for making play-along props and a video on how to make a theatre den (although there’s no pressure to do any of this, as the props are not essential for enjoyment of the show). Check out our review here.
*ACCESSIBILITY* Play-Along Plink and Boo uses minimal text. The performers use Sign Supported English (SSE) to accompany the few words that are used. The animation in the film helps to illustrate the sounds and music used, as well as creatively captioning the text. There are also introductory videos available for those who would benefit from familiarising themselves with the cast before the show.
Arthur’s Dream Boat (Long Nose Puppets): Suitable for ages 2-8
Arthur’s Dream Boat (a puppet show based on the popular Polly Dunbar book) was due to play at Z-Arts, Manchester this weekend. Since that couldn’t happen, they’ve made it available online instead, together with plenty of related crafts and educational activities.
Accessibility: There is a full transcript of this recording available.
The Little Fish (Little Angel Theatre): Suitable for ages 3-6
The latest in a long line of lockdown puppetry from Little Angel Theatre, The Little Fish has been created by Lyndie Wright, Sarah Wright and Mike Shepherd. A curious little fish wants to explore the big, wide world outside of his fish bowl in a house in Cross Street. One brave leap from the window takes the little fish down into the gutter, along the Thames and beyond. As the little fish will learn, a big adventure is often what it takes to make us appreciate the familiarity of home.
Michael Rosen’s Clever Cakes: Suitable for ages 3+
Little Angel Theatre have partnered with author Michael Rosen to produce an online, puppetry adaptation of Clever Cakes, a story about a little girl called Masha who outwits a massive, greedy bear to escape home to her granny. Watch it below:
Aidy’s Awesome Adventure: The Story Thief (The Gramphones): Suitable for ages 4+
Can Aidy and her Granny defeat the story eater and release the stories? They are going to need your help to do it.
*ACCESSIBILITY* There are optional subtitles and an audio-described version.
Perfect (Omnibus Theatre): Suitable for ages 4+
Perfect is the touching story of a boy meeting his disabled sister for the first time, with stunning puppetry, original live music, animation and physical theatre from the award-winning Tessa Bide. Visit the Omnibus Theatre website for full details.
Recommended for all Primary School Children
WNO Play Opera: Suitable for ages 3-8
Every Saturday at 10am join the Welsh National Opera for an interactive family show featuring performances from members of WNO Orchestra and Chorus and insight from people behind the scenes. Learn about Welsh National Opera’s most treasured composers and hear some of their favourite songs brought to life through cartoons, animation, games and stories. There will even be a challenge or two to keep the children entertained after the show has ended. Find out more on the WNO website and watch the first episode below:
Up, Up, Up and Away (Super Stories with City Actors): Suitable for ages 2-8
Can you help Calamity and his Apprentice as they set off in their big, blue hot air balloon on a phantasmagorical aeronautical adventure?! Join them in an interactive, adventure story perfect for all the family. With the wizardry of modern video communication, the story is beamed (using web cams, green screens and lovingly hand-crafted puppets) into the safety of your living room. So what are you waiting for? Grab a travel buddy and let’s go ‘Up, Up, Up and Away!’
Madame Kalamazoo (National Theatre): Suitable for all ages but especially 5-11
Madame Kalamazoo is a mysterious storyteller who arrived from the Blue Moon at the start of lockdown. She writes funny daily stories for children and will send them to you for free via the National Theatre by email. The magical thing about her stories is that they have your children in them as the main characters! Fine out more here.
Flyboy and the Robot (Little Angel Theatre): Suitable for ages 5-11
Flyboy and the Robot is an original story from multi-disciplinary artist and musician Matthew Robins (performed with Tim Spooner). Matthew has been writing and performing an on-going series of stories about Flyboy for the last 10 years. Using black paper, a scalpel, and a piano they are his own home-made way of recreating all the things he loves – 1950s science-fiction films, Sesame Street cartoons, the Beano, old Tom Waits records. This story (Flyboy and the Robot) is one of Matthew’s favourites to perform as it combines many of his favourite things, i.e. crocodiles, robots, and sausages, and lots of diminished-seventh chords.
Scoop’s Space (Little Angel Theatre): Suitable for ages 5-11
This digital retelling is inspired by the 2018 production Junk (which saw Little Angel Theatre transform theor studio space into a recycling plant). It revisits Scoop, the junk lady, and shows you into her secret space – a place where she gathers and stores all of the interesting things that other people throw away, and uses them to tell to tell stories.
This production reunited the original company of Junk and was filmed with a skeleton crew in Little Angel Studios, following social distancing guidelines.
You can now also watch the latest installment of Scoop’s Space: Mr Gobble’s Garden:
The Twisted Tale of Hansel and Gretel (Open Theatre Company): Suitable for ages 5+
Open Theatre Company’s re-imagining of the classic fairy tale Hansel & Gretel had begun a national tour just before the coronavirus crisis. They released a recording on Saturday 25 April which you can watch here. They have also put together a pack of fun activities to go with it, alongside the resources that they would ordinarily make available for a relaxed performance. You can find these on their website. It’s free to access but the company is requesting donations to their Open Theatre 30 campaign, which provides creative opportunities for young people with learning disabilities.
*ACCESSIBILITY* This is a relaxed performance.
Roald Dahl’s The Twits Online (Unicorn Theatre): Suitable for ages 6-12
The latest digital offering from the Unicorn Theatre is an theatrical reading of Roald Dahl’s The Twits. It will be told in three parts, each 20 minutes long, which will all be released together on 5 September and remain available until 20 November.
Rocket Girl (Alphabetti Theatre): Suitable for ages 6+
From the creative team who brought you Walter (winner of the Best Children’s Show Award, British Theatre Guide 2017), comes a live recording from February 2020 of this fantastical family friendly show. Follow nine year old Georgina on her adventure to design and build the very first Rocket, years before the famous George Stephenson. But instead of railroads, Georgina dreams of getting to the moon to dig for Cinder toffee (left by the toffee-dragons, as she has been told by Nana Nora) to make her fortune for her family and village.
Funny Looking Kids: Comedy Club (Citadel Arts): Suitable for ages 6+
Another show brought online by the Citadel Arts Musical & Comedy Festival for Families is children’s comedy show, Funny Looking Kids, created by Gav Cross (who describes himself as “Storyteller, Creative & Idiot”). If you missed it, catch up below. You can also find plenty more comedy storytelling for kids on Gav’s own YouTube Channel!
Comedy Club 4 Kids (Next Up Comedy): Suitable for ages 6+
Comedy Club 4 Kids has been live-streaming gigs via Next Up Comedy. You can catch up on YouTube:
The Quest (What’s Coming Out of the Box Productions): Suitable for ages 5-10
‘The quest’ is a story about adventure. After receiving a mysterious call during lockdown, a librarian and her housemates set out on a quest to discover the meaning of adventure. Ever wanted to go to the moon, become a spy or an inventor? Then join the screen-free fun. Using everyday props, this imaginative audio play offers you a chance to join in with activities to become part of the story. (Top tip – You will need to gather the props first and small people should be accompanied during the adventure!)
SELECT A QUEST (Pins & Needles Productions): Suitable for ages 6+
From Oliver-nominated Pins and Needles Productions and award-winning writer Bea Roberts, comes a new, interactive online adventure, SELECT A QUEST. A stimulating and entertaining mission for ages 6+. Expect a vibrant mix of mystery, silliness and fun as families get together to explore the 27 scenes set across six levels, leading to one winner, one curse and a whole lot o’violent deaths. SELECT A QUEST promises to offer audiences an eclectic and innovative theatrical experience in the comfort of your own home. With multiple paths to choose from, once you start it will be hard to leave. Read our review here.
The Wind in the Willows : Suitable for all ages
The Wind in The Willows played at the London Palladium in summer 2017. You can stream archive footage of it on their website for £4.99 and they have also made an educational activity pack available, which means it definitely counts as school work! Watch the trailer below:
Recommended for Key Stage 2
The University of Wonder and Imagination (Cahoots NI): Suitable for ages 7+
Northern Ireland-based children’s theatre company Cahoots NI has launched an immersive digital theatre experience with the aim of bringing the magic and joy of theatre to young audiences at home. The University of Wonder and Imagination is an hour-long interactive digital theatre production that allows audiences to effectively direct the performance, based on their interaction with the performers. In this ambitious and innovative undertaking, Cahoots NI will broadcast from an extensive, purpose-built set in Belfast, where magic and illusion have no boundaries. Read our review here and then head to the Cahoots website for the latest tour dates.
I wish I was a Mountain (A co-production from The Egg, Bath and Travelling Light Theatre Company): Suitable for ages 7+
Another one from The Egg, Bath. This time for slightly older children. I wish I was a Mountain is an award winning production written and performed by former Glastonbury Poetry Slam Champion Toby Thompson. Watch it here.
*ACCESSIBILITY* The video includes closed captions.
The Mystery of the Raddlesham Mumps: Suitable for ages 7+
The Mystery of the Raddlesham Mumps is a family show that will appeal to lovers of Harry Potter, Tim Burton, Lemony Snicket and The Brothers Grimm. With the tour curtailed, an audio recording has been made available on their website and there are some accompanying lesson plans which were designed for school workshops. The story is also available as a book and those with Oculus headsets can try out a VR prequel.
The Extraordinary Time-Travelling Adventures of Baron Munchausen: Suitable for ages 7+
Fresh from a run at VAULT Festival, Baron Munchausen brings his award-winning, improvised storytelling show for families to his YouTube channel. Check out episode 1 below.
Cirque du Soleil 60 Minute Specials: Suitable for all ages
Cirque du Soleil have released a series of videos on their YouTube channel, featuring a range of acts from some of their best loved shows. You can also find plenty more content on their website, including make-up tutorials and CirqueFit exercise videos.
Philip Pullman’s Grimm Tales Online (Unicorn Theatre): Suitable for ages 8-12
Adapted by Philip Pullman (His Dark Materials), the Unicorn Theatre presents a deliciously gruesome selection of six theatrical readings from Grimm Tales, re-told for the whole family by an extraordinary cast.
These classic fairy tales, distilled from centuries of storytelling, are timeworn but honed for the next generation to discover anew.
VIKING, Intrepid Fools: Suitable for ages 8+
Viking is a family show that played at the Edinburgh Fringe 2019 and received five star reviews.You can find it on YouTube. We’ll let you know our thoughts once we’ve watched it but in the meantime check out this review from a father and son reviewing duo.
Recommended for Secondary School Children
Many of the shows listed as suitable for Key Stage 2 children will also be suitable for older children (particularly the big musicals such as The Wind in the Willows ). In this section, we feature shows that are either designed especially for teenagers/young adults or other shows which we think will particularly appeal to that demographic……
Twelfth Night (Southwark Playhouse): Suitable for ages 10+
As part of their Southwark Stayhouse streaming project, Southwark Playhouse have released a recording of their Shakespeare for Schools performance of Twelfth Night. Set in a music festival, complete with live music, this is an ideal introduction to Shakespeare.
*ACCESSIBILITY* This recording is fully captioned and also includes some BSL
I , Cinna (The Poet) (Unicorn Theatre): Suitable for ages 11+
This production from poet and playwright Tim Crouch is based on ‘Shakespeare’s unluckiest character’ (from Julius Caesar) and played at the Unicorn Theatre earlier this year to critical acclaim. A great introduction to Shakespeare and a fantastic way to get teenagers interested in poetry. You can find it on YouTube. There are also plenty of related resources on the Unicorn’s website. Watch the trailer below:
Girls Like That (Unicorn Theatre/Synergy Theatre Project): Suitable for ages 13+
Girls Like That is a 2014 co-production from the Unicorn Theatre and Synergy Theatre Project which explores gender equality and the pressures of the digital world. Watch the trailer below.