Pauline McCaul, the  ‘the miracle maker’, designs and makes the panto costumes, pictured  with Joe Conlan as Widow Twankey at the Gaiety Theatre. Photograph: Tom Honan

Meet Daryn Crosbie and the colourful crew behind the Gaiety panto

How will Santa find us? from writers Shane O’Brien and Stephen Rogers

Plus new titles from Abi Elphinstone, Shirley Hughes and Natasha Mac a’Bháird

Driving Home for Christmas

A ‘radio play within a play’ production; and an annual tradition at the Lyric in Belfast

Christmas pantomime: Jack and the Beanstalk at the Everyman Theatre, in Cork. Photograph: Miki Barlow

Plus our reviews of all the best Christmas pantos – and the ones to avoid

Cinderella: Matthew Carpenter as the ugly sister Bernie, Jake Carter as Prince Charming and Rob Murphy as Buffy, at the Pantodome at Royal Hospital Kilmainham, in Dublin. Photograph: Leon Farrell

Our selection of festive events around Ireland right through to the new year

Artist Ian Parker: “It’s the technique of painting itself that is a challenge, to anyone, disabled or able-bodied. It requires skill and practice and patience.”

Disabled artist Ian Parker has just illustrated a children’s book about a disabled character

Des Keogh and Rosaleen Linehan in Endgame. Photograph: Ros Kavanagh

Des Keogh and Rosaleen Linehan stage a reunion; and SoloSirens comes to Tallaght

Lorcan Cranitch in Blood in the Dirt by Rory Gleeson. Photograph: Patrick Redmond

Rory Gleeson’s Blood in the Dirt, and the Bockety World of Henry Bucket

Director Cal McCrystal with the cast of Drama at Inish at the Abbey Theatre

Cal McCrystal has worked as a comedy adviser – from Paddington to One Man, Two Guvnors – and now comes to Dublin to direct Lennox (...)

‘As Scrooge, Owen Roe glowers and grimaces beneath a top hat’ in A Christmas Carol

Selina Cartmell’s ambitious Gate production is both intimate and involving

 Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg holds a placard reading ‘School strike for the climate’ during a protest against climate change outside the Swedish parliament in November 2018. Photograph: Hanna Franzen/AFP/Getty Images

Plus new books on children who changed the world, the art of protest and time zone travel tales

Lisa Dwan and Colm Tóibín have collaborated to produce Pale Sister. Photograph: Ros Kavanagh

Lisa Dwan and Colm Tóibín discuss working together on 'Pale Sister' a new piece of theatre based on the story of Antigone

Coconut dahl, from Lunch at 10 Pomegranate Street

Picture recipe book offers an imaginative way to explore world cuisines with kids

Baba Yaga will take place as part of Baboró, in the Town Hall Theatre for 7-13 year olds

Baboró arts festival in Galway will bring 14 theatre companies to perform for children

The Haircut!: Thommas Kane Byrne (centre) with Berginald Rash, Nicola Ciccarelli and Lioba Petrie. Photograph: Ros Kavanagh

Dublin Theatre Festival: This perfectly paced production for ages eight and up retells the Irish folk tale for a new audience

Aimee Lucido takes a totally original approach to the verse novel, using the language of music and computer code to carry the story.

The Children of Lir , The Fate of Fausto , Scúnc Agus Smúirín, The Ghouls of Howlfair

British author Philip Pullman:  ‘I don’t think anyone could have predicted the ruin, the decay, the distress, the chaos, this most terrible and appalling mess.’ Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images

The author on His Dark Materials, its follow-up trilogy, and the ‘total failure’ that is Brexit

Us/Them: Gytha Parmentier and Roman Van Houtven give impeccable performances in Carly Wijs’s production

Dublin Theatre Festival: Bronks stages a powerful, politically charged account of the Beslan massacre

Pike St: Nilaja Sun portrays life in a New York tenement. Photograph: Teresa Castracane

Dublin Theatre Festival: Nilaja Sun plays three generations of characters with ease

Walking to Jerusalem: a fascinating story which highlights a worthy cause. Photograph: Mark Kensett

Dublin Theatre Festival: Justin Butcher serves as an energetic guide along the Roman roads out of Europe

Mám: Ellie Poirier-Dolan and Kirk Patrick in Teac Damsa’s new dance production. Photograph: Ros Kavanagh

Dublin Theatre Festival: Michael Keegan-Dolan’s new dance production is 90 minutes of ritualised ecstasy

Last Orders at the Dockside: the music ranges from Irish ballads to 1980s socialist anthems. Photograph: Ros Kavanagh

Dublin Theatre Festival: Dermot Bolger’s social drama offers a window into history, but may struggle with contemporary audiences

Some Names Were Changed: the audience vote for their preferred story. Photograph: Patricio Cassinoni

Dublin Fringe Festival: The parodic format is entertaining but tests an audience’s patience

Afloat: the play forces the audience to confront their own role in climate change. Photograph: Manny Singh

Dublin Fringe Festival: The capital is underwater in this enlightening and confronting look at climate change

Catherine O’Flynn’s Lori and Max: features an aspiring detective, who looks to Miss Marple and Sherlock Holmes for inspiration

Catherine O’Flynn has a debut children’s novel called Lori and Max

Making a Mark: documenting the life experience of Mark Smith. Photograph: Luca Truffarelli

Dublin Fringe Festival: The victories and tragedies of Mark Smith recounted through interview and performance

Gym Swim Party: the warring factions are two rival gyms. Photograph: Ste Murray

Dublin Fringe Festival: Much to enjoy in this ambitious production, which merges ancient myth with modern life

GAA MAAD: a potted history of the GAA and a list of the commercial sponsors of Dublin Pride. Photograph: Ste Murray

Dublin Fringe Festival: Vickey Curtis and Áine O’Hara practice their own version of inclusivity

Sauce: Maura is a kleptomaniac, Mella a compulsive liar. Photograph: Ste Murray

Dublin Fringe Festival: This love letter to sauce delights in innuendo and provokes hysterics

MOOP: the performance creates a universe where anyone would be delighted to live. Photograph: Aoife Herrity

Dublin Fringe Festival: Playful encounters with bowler hats, water wings and a stick bring hilarious results

Mother of God: Alison Spittle presides over the pulpit in a colourful cape and a crown of roses

Dublin Fringe Festival: Spittle takes to the pulpit with confidence as she rakes over her past

The playwright comes full circle with the Irish premiere of Hecuba at Project Arts Centre

Actor Mark Smith and Aisling Byrne, his friend and longtime collaborator. “Mark has an amazing story. A lot has happened in his life. He has done some amazing things”

Making documentary theatre about his life has given the actor his first opportunity to tell his own story

Illustration from Don’t Worry Little Crab.

Plus a visual treat that doubles as an accessible parable about anxiety

Jo Mangan, curator for the Irish Society for Stage and Screen Designers. Photograph: Martin Maguire

An expressionistic form-bending film, giving an insight into the process and product of stage design

Emily Gravett’s black and white sketches for Matt Haig’s Evie and the Animals are expressive of a wide range of emotions

Humorous story gives an entirely different perspective on the much-maligned spider

 Pichon has been heavily involved in all aspects of the production, coming up with six original storylines for the two-act play

For the creator of the Tom Gates character, reader’s imagination is as important as her own in the books

Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea provides an imaginative model for friendship and celebrating difference

Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea by Ben Clanton, Thomas Taylor’s Malamander, Abi Elphinstone’s Rumblestar and A Girl Called Justice by (...)

“Kids like to get up early and to stay up late, which can make the festival day really long. So we were conscious that we could try and structure the day around the rhythm of a typical family day.”  Photograph: Anna Kerslake

Richard Seabrooke, the man behind the upcoming three-day Kaleidoscope festival, believes that cultural experiences can fire young (...)

Children from St Mary’s National School, Stepaside and Stepaside Educate Together who played a part in the design process to create a new play space at Fernhill Park and Gardens. Photograph: Alan Betson

Swings and roundabouts are not as important as freedom to experiment and take risks

“Work in the Visual Arts is so badly paid in Ireland – the average annual income is between €10,000 and €15,000 a year – that it is especially tricky to sustain a career, because you can’t afford childcare.”

A network, The Mothership Project, aims to develop supports for artists with children

Author Shane Hegarty. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

A celebration of the natural world from Nicola Skinner and delightful illustrations by Angela Brooksbank

Lynn Haughton: ‘The most sustainable resources are the ones we have.’

Siblings Chris and Lynn Haughton are combining their commitment to ethical and sustainable design, and their love for the sea, to (...)

The King and I runs at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre at the end of the month.

How do you approach work that dances so dangerously with ideas of political correctness?

The Whistleblast Quartet (left to right): Conor Linehan (piano), Oonagh Keogh  (violin), Mary Curran (French horn), Ken Edge (clarinet and saxes)

Students are getting access to classical music with a little help from Whistleblast Quartet

Where Are You, Puffling? by Erika McGann and illustrated by Gerry Daly. A family of puffins gets a fright.

Gay dads, blended families, dealing with grief, a family of puffins and sibling dynamics

Sabina Redeva’s illustrated version of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species

Owls, frogs and bears feature in the latest kids’ books for all ages

The  project aims to explore the idea of creative engagement in schools

Programme aims to enable children’s creative potential

Sarah McIntyre’s Pictures Mean Business. Pictures “make stories come alive for children. When children pull a book off the shelf that they can’t read yet, they choose the book for the pictures.” Illustration: Sara McIntyre

Fed up of her work going uncredited in children’s books, Sarah McIntyre decided to act

Two Sides, by Polly Yo Hen and Binny Talib: readers will surely pore over again and again

Plus new reads from Polly Ho-Yen, Aitziber Lopez, Kate Pankhurst and Fiona Robinson

At the Ark: Kate Heffernan with members of the centre’s children’s council. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

No Child 2020: Put the kids in charge – how the Ark turned to children for ideas

Jon Agee’s “The Wall in the Middle of the Book” is a humorous exploration of fear.

Inese Zandere, David LaRochelle, Karen McCrombie, Lucy Stranger and Jon Agee

Former Pussycat Doll Kimberly Wyatt: Don’t cha just wish you could dance like her?

The inaugural festival of arts offers workshops for singers, dancers and musicians

Sam Copeland’s debut novel ‘Charlie Changes Into a Chicken’.

Lure your child back to the printed word with Alex Gardiner’s Mossbelly MacFearsome

Winter Funderland is at the RDS  in Dublin until January 13th. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Christmas Day is over, but there is still plenty to do with children before school restarts

Hopscotch and the Christmas Tree

Tamsin Lyons’s Ink and Light animation studio is bringing a message of mindfulness

Les Misérables: The ensemble cast move like tiny figures in a game played by the Gods

Hugo’s spiritually benevolent message rings loudly in this immersive, cinematic staging

Our hero is Boy, a large-headed, stick-limbed boy with a wondrous capacity for adventure.

If you have had enough of the flashing lights of the panto, this is the show for you

Sammy Claws: The Christmas Cat

A doubting Thomas, a young girl and a sheep save the day in our kids’ books round-up

We Are Going on a Bear Hunt at the Pavilion, Dún Laoghaire

Your one-stop Christmas events shop is here

The Snow Queen: Louise Bowden as the Gaiety panto’s icy diva

The Christmas show’s sheer spectacle makes up for a few weaknesses in the plot

A fox by Aga Grandowicz, one of the many stunning illustrations in Dr Hibernica Finch’s Compelling Compendium of Irish Animals (Little Island, €25)

Children’s books: from wood mice and red squirrels to beetles and termites, there’s plenty of nature in these new releases

Lauren Child: Hubert Horatio, from How to Raise Your Grown-Ups

Ideas take shape when the mind is drifting, so give kids room ‘to let their minds wander’

With the Pooka who is as furry and friendly-looking as a teddy, Shona Shirley Macdonald demystifies the idea of monsters for the skittish young reader

A lonely Pooka, an invasion of evil teddy bears and a witch from the Louisiana swamp all feature for Halloween

St Nicholas: Brendan Coyle in Conor McPherson’s play. Photograph: Helen Maybanks

Dublin Theatre Festival: Brendan Coyle stars in the Irish premiere of Conor McPherson’s 1997 play

Home Theatre (Ireland): Elaine Murphy in Caroline’s Wedding, for Rose Emmet

Dublin Theatre Festival: Intimate snapshots of life in Dublin 15 pair actors with locals. The results are top-notch

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo: classical poise becomes pantomime as they bring Swan Lake to life

Dublin Theatre Festival: The all-male ballet troupe blend dance and physical comedy

The Young King by Oscar Wilde,   presented by Dublin Theatre Festival and The Ark

Work made for children used to be rare, but there's now a rich bounty of shows

Eliza’s Adventures in the Uncanny Valley: Pan Pan explores the influence of artificial intelligence on our capacity to be human

Dublin Theatre Festival: The audience are stuck when a piece of theatre denies its characters humanity

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man: Amy Conroy and Paul Mescal in Rough Magic’s production. Photograph: Ste Murray

Dublin Theatre Festival: Rough Magic’s Joyce adaptation is refreshingly unconventional

The Mai: Derbhle Crotty is both tough and tender in what was Marina Carr’s first full-length play

Dublin Theatre Festival: Derbhle Crotty is moving as Marina Carr’s family figurehead

The Fattest Dancer at St Bernadette’s: Julian La Blanc and his unpredictable sidekicks. Photograph: Ste Murray

Dublin Fringe Festival: Thommas Kane Byrne stars in his reinvention of the one-man show

Confirmation: Xnthony stages his story as a confessional coming-of-age pop concert. Photograph: Brian Teeling

Dublin Fringe Festival: This musical memoir of growing up gay in rural Ireland is sonically stirring but lacks focus

Seahorse: Mara, the pregnant heroine of Christiane O’Mahony play, isn’t sure she is ready to hand over her life to a “tiny dictator”.  Photograph: Engin Akyurt

Dublin Fringe Festival: A few tweaks could give Christiane O’Mahony’s play a deservedly long life

Samira Elagoz’s story is an intimate one, but her performance is cool and detached. The overall effect is both very disturbing and immensely sad.

Dublin Fringe Festival: Why should a woman need safety procedures when encountering men she doesn’t know?

Jonathan Auxier’s “Sweep: The Story of a Girl and her Monster” tells of a feisty child, Nan Sparrow, indentured to a vile master sweep.

Children’s fiction from Auxier, Burton, Doyle, Martin and Chambers

Christiane O’Mahony in ‘Seahorse’: ‘I thought, this would be a fun way to examine the anxieties of modern womanhood in Ireland: all the awkwardness, all the expectations that fall upon you’

Christiane O'Mahony's new play Seahorse centres around an unlikely feminist icon

Unwoman Part III: Olwen Fouéré in Maeve Stone and the Rabble’s live installation. Photograph: Patricio Cassinoni

Dublin Fringe Festival: Olwen Fouéré’s Unwoman is stuck in perpetual parturition

Susie and the Story Shredder: Clodagh Mooney Duggan and Matthew Malone bring youthful vim to the stage. Photograph: Neil O’Driscoll

Dublin Fringe Festival: Painful puns, silly dances, perfectly judged audience interaction

Demelza and Nessa in Gabrielle Kent’s ‘Knights and Bikes’.

Authors’ imaginations run riot in this selection of children’s books

Jarlath Tivnan, Maria McDermottroe and Pat Shortt in Martin McDonagh’s “A Skull in Connemara” directed by Andrew Flynn, Decadent Theatre. Photograph: Darragh Kane

Decadent Theatre’s production draws out darkness of McDonagh’s Gothic work

Theatre Lovett’s ‘Frnknstn’ by Michael West, at the Abbey Theatre from August 17th to  September 1st. Photograph: Ros Kavanagh

‘Frnkstn’, at the Abbey Theatre, reanimates the monster for a new generation

A Dublin Fairytale: “Look, there’s Trinity College of Sorcery”

Five Irish children’s books that will lead you on a summer family adventure

The Dodo Made Me Do It: an extinct bird is more troublesome than Jo Simmons’s hero could have imagined

Children’s books: new stories from Eirlys Hunter, Ruth Quayle, Jarvis and Jo Simmons

Based on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, this asks who was the Wicked Witch of the West?

Cymbeline Igloo, the hero of Boy Underwater by Adam Baron is  marked out by his classmates for being different.

An alien warrior, handling grief, and a boy who loves pairs are among this month’s highlights

Neither freak show nor side show, disability is now centre stage

Production at Carlow Arts Festival puts artists, disabled and non-disabled, on stage together

The Yark: a child-chomping beast stalks through suburban bedrooms across the globe looking for a decent meal.

Children’s fiction covers all the basics from child-eating monsters, to nature and grief

Pure, mesmerising storytelling: Shane O’Regan in ‘Private Peaceful’

The storyteller presents war, peace and the human condition through a lens of realism

Struggling with maths? Need to relax? Or just want adventure? These books cater for all

Roald Dahl’s novel may be 30 years old, but this adaptation from the Royal Shakespeare Company resonates chillingly

Sarah Bowie’s ‘We’re Going to the Zoo’

Sara Keating selects the best new books for children

I’m a Girl!: for the heroine of Yasmeen Ismail’s book her sex is a point of pride, even if it defies stereotype and the expectations of those around her

From picture books to YA fiction, it’s a great time to be a girl who loves to read

Ian Lloyd Anderson (Jack) and Kate Stanley Brennan  (Nora) in  ‘The Plough and the Stars’ by Sean O’Casey.  Photograph: Ros Kavanagh

This month sees Ireland’s national theatre playing in London, and its British equivalent coming to Dublin

Mythical beasts lurking in the ocean; an anxious panda bear; a lone wolf on the run; raggedy witches rustling through the trees; a(...)

Deirdre Kinahan: “People ask ‘How do you feel about being on the main stage?’ I say bring it on.” Photograph: Shane Cowley

In 2018, a diversity of Irish women’s voices will take their place on the national stage

 The Weaver by Quian Shi is a story about a spider called Stanley and his quest to weave a web he can call home

Sara Keating selects the best new books for children

Children enjoying performances at the  Wide Eyes arts festival, hosted by Baboró, in Galway. Photograph: Anita Murphy

Wide Eyes Festival brings performing arts into the hearts of the very young

Fourth class pupils at St Clare’s Primary School in Harold’s Cross, Dublin, with Arts Council director Orlaith McBride and writer Siobhán Parkinson. The Writers in Schools programme recently celebrated its 40th birthday. Photograph:  Andres Poveda

An education scheme is helping children see writers as living, breathing people rather than mythical beats

Mark O’Rowe: 'You remember that making theatre is less about precision than bringing something to life.' Photograph: Alan Betson

Mark O’Rowe’s latest play ‘The Approach’ was triggered by three women in his head

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