Arts: A stack of Christmas crackers: Panto doesn't rule - OK? Jenny Gilbert chooses her Top 10 shows for kids, with a special offer on every one

'LET's take the family to a show for Christmas.' But what kind of show? Once the choice was simple: pantomime or a circus. Recently both have fallen prey to chocolate advertising and gameshow culture. But there are alternatives. More theatre companies are devoting the season to children, and what follows is a selection of the best, plus two unusual circus events. To take up any of the 10 offers, give the relevant password to identify yourself as an IoS reader when making your booking. (Offers subject to availability.)

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

Unicorn Theatre, London WC2, 071-836 3334, to 23 Jan. Director Richard Williams arrived two years ago from Nottingham Playhouse determined to raise standards of writing, direction and design to match the best in adult theatre. Last year's Pinocchio showed it was possible; this year's Beauty has done it again. You would be hard-pressed to find more ravishing sets and costumes, and Andy Rashleigh's moving adaptation restores the story's moral core. The beast is beastly from a guilty conscience; only love can restore him. Anyone above the age of six will be entranced.

OFFER: Four free pairs of tickets for each of the Sat 11am performances on 8, 15 and 22 Jan. When booking quote ROSEBUD. pounds 4.50- pounds 7.50.

SLAVA POLUNIN'S ACADEMY OF FOOLS

Hackney Empire, London E8, 081-985 2424, 17 Dec to 9 Jan. It's hard to imagine Picasso or Lautrec getting excited about modern circuses, but here's a clown company with a pedigree. The style of these 'philosophers in boots' falls somewhere between the Marx Brothers, commedia and the Russian minstrel tradition. The props are familiar but the effects are unexpected, veering from brutal belly laughs to lyrical tenderness.

OFFER: First 20 readers to phone Tony Goodrick on 081-986 0171, password YELLOW, get 2 free tickets for the opening night. pounds 7 adults, pounds 5 children. Not for children under six.

BLACKHEATH'S VICTORIAN CIRCUS

Blackheath Concert Halls, London SE3, 081- 463 0100, 26 Dec to 3 Jan. Olde-tyme circus: no celebs, no piped music, candlelight, and traditional big-top acts such as Cockney jugglers The Uncles and 'the fibrillating Fluke'. Chestnut-roasters have ousted the hotdog van, but there is one nod to modernity: not a whisker of a performing animal.

OFFER: Special IoS family ticket (2 adults, 2 children) for pounds 25. Quote MISTLETOE. Single tickets pounds 12.50/ pounds 7.50.

PETER PAN

Sadler's Wells, London EC1, 071-278 8916, 21 Dec to 8 Jan. The story goes that one day Black Light Theatre of Prague's director Jiri Srnec was on his way home from the dentist, groggy from anaesthetic, when he saw two pairs of underpants in aerial combat with a pair of knickers. He dreamt up a technique whereby, in the dark, objects and figures picked out in ultra-violet light appear freed from gravity. Last year's Alice was a hit with its free-fall heroine and floating teapot. Peter Pan would seem even riper for treatment.

OFFER: Best seats, pounds 10 adults, pounds 6 children on 23 Dec. Quote CROCODILE. Tickets pounds 5- pounds 15.

SLEEPING BEAUTY

Little Angel, London N1, 071-226 1787, to 23 Jan. This converted temperance hall has become a point of pilgrimage for marionette devotees all over the world. The new show uses 18-inch carved string puppets, operated by visible puppeteer-actors. The script is by Gregory Motton, whose plays have been performed at the Royal Court. The music (live) is Tchaikovsky's ballet score arranged for the spinet. Small-scale perfection.

OFFER: The first 10 parties to book five or more seats get 20 per cent off. Password SPINDLE. Regular prices: pounds 6.50 adults, pounds 5 children.

THE FANTASTICAL LEGEND OF DR FAUST

Shaw Theatre, London NW1, 071-388 1394, Mon to 18 Dec. 'The deal is done. Signed in blood. Faust's soul in return for fun.' Michael Bogdanov attempts the near-impossible: a rewrite of Marlowe's dark classic for a young audience, peopled with super-lifesize sculpted figures, voiced by actors of the English Shakespeare Company. It should make gripping theatre. Suitable for 8-14s.

OFFER: Two tickets for price of one on Sat 11 Dec (11am) and Wed 15 Dec (2.30pm). Passphrase: DABBLE WITH THE DEVIL. All seats pounds 5.

THE SNOWMAN

Birmingham Rep, 021-236 4455, Mon to 29 Jan. It began as a picture-book; then it was an animated film with music; now, still wordless, it's on stage. Bill Alexander's song-and- dance version retains the original narrative: boy builds snowman who comes to life; boy introduces him to the delights and dangers of the home (TV, electric fire, freezer, false teeth), then they fly to the North Pole. Howard Blake has extended the music by a full hour, adding a tango, a pas de deux, a calypso and a new carol. Could anything match 'Walking in the Air'? Go along and find out.

OFFER: The first 10 callers get two free tickets when buying three (excluding 27 Dec to 1 Jan). Quote SNOWBALL. pounds 6.50- pounds 15.50.

THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER

Contact Theatre, Manchester, 061-274 4400, to 15 Jan. Following the critical success of last year's Elidor, Contact has asked director and adaptor Bryan Elsley back for more. Mark Twain's yarn re-emerges in what promises to be another exuberant musical production.

OFFER: Free ticket to the first 10 callers per show to give the password HUCKLEBERRY. One per family. pounds 9 adults, pounds 4.50 children.

THE SNOW QUEEN

Sherman Theatre, Cardiff, 0222 230451, to 8 Jan. Of all Hans Andersen's many enduring stories, this one strikes the strongest chord - a startlingly relevant tale about growing up. Kay becomes cold and destructive, joyriding in the town square. Gerda sets out to bring him back.

OFFER: The first 5 readers to produce a copy of the IoS get one ticket free when they buy two in person (22-29 Dec only). pounds 4.50- pounds 7.50.

THE LION, THE WITCH & THE WARDROBE

Glasgow Citizens, 041-429 0022, to 22 Jan. 'The Citz' was among the first adult companies to establish a tradition of end-of-year family shows, and Giles Havergal has directed all but two of them since 1969. He believes in audience participation: 'It's important for young ones to feel involved. Not mindless 'oh no he didn'ts', but when there are moral dilemmas, the children are consulted. Should the children go into the wardrobe?' Myles Rudge's adaptation will pass muster with C S Lewis fans in both attention to detail and other-worldliness.

OFFER: One child's ticket free with each adult ticket bought for the 2pm show on Hogmanay. pounds 6- pounds 8.50. Password ASLAN. -

(Photograph omitted)

Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine