Christmas shows: A feast of artistic alternatives for a stimulating Yuletide

Will yet another 'Nutcracker' drive you nuts? Or do you think that panto is pants?
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The Independent Culture

THEATRE

The Family Plays, Royal Court Theatre, London

A double bill providing a stimulating new-writing alternative to the Nativity play. The Good Family hails from Sweden and portrays a seemingly perfect household, while The Khomenko Family Chronicles relates global history from Chernobyl to 9/11 through the prism of a Ukrainian family.

To 21 December (020-7565 5000)

Dealer's Choice, Trafalgar Studios, London

Patrick Marber's brilliant first play is a blackly comic meditation on the perils of poker. Directed by Samuel West, this hit production stars Roger Lloyd-Pack and Stephen Wight, recent winner of the Evening Standard's Outstanding Newcomer Award.

To 29 March (0871 297 5461)

Noughts & Crosses, Civic Hall, Stratford-upon-Avon

Dominic Cooke returns to the RSC to direct this intelligent, modern-day take on Romeo and Juliet, about love across racial and political divides, adapted from Malorie Blackman's teenage novel.

To 2 February (0844 800 1110)

Much Ado About Nothing, National Theatre, London

In a mouth-watering pairing, Zoë Wanamaker and Simon Russell Beale are pitted against one another as the feisty reluctant lovers Beatrice and Benedick in Shakespeare's most uplifting and satisfying comedy. Nicholas Hytner directs.

10 December to 29 March, in repertory (020-7452 3000)

CABARET/DANCE/COMEDY

Loft, Roundhouse, London

What happens when you let seven former members of Cirque du Soleil run riot in a house? Knife juggling, tablecloth acrobatics and bathtub contortions and that's just for starters. This fresh new show also features singing, dancing, a DJ and beatboxing.

To 30 December (0870 389 1846)

Ennio Marchetto, Southbank Centre, London

Taking the current obsession with celebrity to delirious new heights, Marchetto uses ingenious folded-paper costumes and lightning-quick changes to conjure up a constellation of stars. Old favourites returning this year include Madonna and Mona Lisa, and Amy Winehouse is a compelling new addition.

20-30 December (0871 663 2500)

Josie Long, Trying is Good, Soho Theatre, London

Christmas cheer of the highest calibre. Josie Long is a rare beast in the world of comedy, eschewing bleak cynicism in favour of sunny optimism. A hit at Edinburgh, Trying is Good sees her extol simple pleasures, from wheat-free bread to strangers chatting at bus-stops. (If that all sounds too cheery, stop at the theatre downstairs, where Anthony Neilson's new RSC commission, God in Ruins, about the plight of single men at Christmas, plays until 5 January.)

To 15 December (0870 429 6883), then national tour, 25 January to 29 February

Office Party Xmas 2007, The Pit, Barbican, London

The tacky end-of-year tinsel-decked ordeal is invariably a source of comedy, intentional or otherwise. Here, the office Christmas do is given the cabaret treatment by Ursula Martinez, Christopher Green, along with a host of comedians including Glenn Wool. Audience members are cordially invited to dress up for the party, enjoy the nibbles and drinks, and join in the outrageous yet strangely all-too familiar festivities.

12-29 December (0845 120 7550)

FILM

I'm Not There, nationwide

The toast of this year's Venice Film Festival, where it won the Special Jury Prize and Cate Blanchett was named Best Actress, opens here. Todd Haynes' poetic biopic portrays different facets of Bob Dylan's character using six actors, including a woman (Blanchett) and a black teenager (Marcus Carl Franklin), as well as Richard Gere, Ben Whishaw, Heath Ledger and Christian Bale. The soundtrack is a feast of Dylan covers by, among others, Sonic Youth, Sufjan Stevens and Charlotte Gainsbourg.

On general release from 21 December

Lust, Caution and Q&A with Ang Lee, Picturehouse Cinemas

A chance to see Ang Lee's follow-up to Brokeback Mountain before it is released nationwide on 4 January. Lust, Caution is another tale of repressed passions, this time set in occupied Shanghai during the Second World War and starring Tony Leung and Wei Tang. The Oscar-winning director will attend the screening at the Gate cinema in Notting Hill, and answer questions afterwards in a session that will be screened live to other Picturehouse cinemas nationwide.

14 December (0871 704 2058; www.picturehouses.co.uk)

ART

Lazarides Gallery, 77 Quayside, Newcastle upon Tyne

The ber-cool Soho home of artists such as Banksy, Jamie Hewlett (co-creator of Gorillaz) and Paul Insect opens up a shiny new space on the Tyne. The first show features work by the usual suspects, as well as by Massive Attack's 3D, street sculptor Mark Jenkins, Adam Neate, and the man behind Radiohead's cover art, Stanley Donwood.

7 December to 31 January ( www.lazinc.com

Anthony McCall, Serpentine Gallery, London

Who needs the flash illuminations of Oxford Street when you can step inside the sublime world of Anthony McCall? A forerunner of modish artists such as James Turrell and Olafur Eliasson, McCall specialises in solid light installations, creating sculptures out of thin air.

To 3 February (020-7402 6075)

Bauhaus 1919-1933, Middlesborough Institute of Modern Art

Mima presents a comprehensive survey of the German school that aimed to redesign modern life through art. Albers, Klee and Kandinsky all feature. (And Erick van Egeraat's striking 14.2m building is worth a visit in any case.)

To 17 February (01642 726 720)

Turner Prize 2007, Tate Liverpool

See whether you agree with the jury's decision this year. Alongside the winner Mark Wallinger's Sleeper, a video of the artist dressed up as a bear wandering around Berlin's national gallery, the exhibition features the other shortlisted works, including Zarina Bhimji's film of an African rope factory, Mike Nelson's maze of mirrored cubes, and Nathan Coley's appropriately Scrooge-like scaffolding that spells out "There Will Be No Miracles Here" in lightbulbs.

To 13 January (0151-702 7400)

MUSIC

Dante Quartet, Christ Church, Spitalfields, London

As the sound of Handel's Messiah rings out from churches and halls across the land, here's a Christmas concert with a difference. The Dante string quartet will perform Beethoven's Quartet in A Minor (op.132) while the actor Walter van Dyk reads from TS Eliot's Four Quartets, the poet's mystical late masterpiece inspired by Beethoven's work which draws on Christian and Hindu imagery.

20 December (020 7377 1362)

Tinariwen, Shepherds Bush Empire, London

The Tuareg band of nomads combines Clash-style guitars with traditional instruments in a blissfully hypnotic live show. This year they have supported the Rolling Stones, no less, and were nominated in the Best African Act category of the Radio 3 World Music Awards.

12 December

Gogol Bordello tour

The New York-Ukrainian Gypsy punk rockers, who shot to prominence when they performed with Madonna at Live Earth, arrive in the UK with their super-charged, stomping brand of musical fun.

8-18 December ( www.gogolbordello.com)

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