Aisling O’Sullivan, Cathy Belton and Derbhle Crotty in The Approach by Mark O’Rowe. Photograph: Patrick Redmond

Producer Anne Clarke on experiencing live performance for first time since pandemic

Howl by Kat Patrick

January’s best new books help kids start the new year with laughter and emotional release

Matthew Baker: Despite a thread of dark humour to leaven the psychological load, the America he foresees is a bleak place.

Matthew Baker thrillingly explores bleak patriotism with pulse of capitalism

Curl up by the fire with a good book, or a couple dozen good books, this Christmas. Photograph: iStock

Sara Keating selects the best books for the smallest stockings

The Ark’s Faces in the Window project, first produced in 1995, was re-created in 2016.

On its 25th anniversary, cultural centre for children has more than 14,000 virtual engagements

Nanny Nellie’s Panto Telly: Peter Pan, at Cork Opera House last Christmas. Photograph: John Allen/COH

Pantomimes and family shows have gone online – or even switched to a drive-in format

Rockin Rhymes in Galway’s Black Box theatre during the 23rd Baboró International Arts Festival for Children. Photograph:   Anita Murphy

A CD will be given to schools across Connacht and Munster as part of a teaching pack that includes videos introducing children to (...)

 Actor Marthe Keller and director Billy Wilder during the filming of  Fedora in Cherbourg, France in 1977. Photograph:  Michel Lambert/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Book review: Jonathan Coe’s usual cohort of fans may be bemused by the inconsistent style and tone

If You Come to Earth. Copyright Sophie Blackall

From Christmas themes to more universal themes of love, loss and mismatched sisters

Federico Julián González in Looking for América

Federico Julián González’s effortlessly engaging solo performance is personal but also has deep political resonance

Cora Venus Lunny, Caimin Gilmore and Olesya Zdorovetska in the Abbey Theatre’s production of The Great Hunger by Patrick Kavanagh at IMMA. Photograph: Ros Kavanagh

The setting at IMMA – the scope of sky and the breadth of landscape – brings to life a new theatrical version of Kavanagh’s poem

The children’s author on Savage Her Reply, a reworking of the Children of Lir

A Thousand Ways: A Phonecall is an intriguing response to the challenges faced by the theatre in recent months. Photograph: Maria Baranova

Dublin Theatre Festival: Audience members meet through a guided phone call about their lives

Paul Noonan’s Electric Kazoo, part of 2020 Dublin Fringe Festival. Photograph: Ruth Medjber/ruthlessimagery

Dublin Fringe Festival: Recorded album would help find wider audience for family-friendly repertoire

Patricia Forde’s To The Island

Plus new titles from Eve McDonnell, Carlie Sorosiak and Sophy Henn

Archival footage and atmospheric video design  create a potent visual reminder and reenactment of lost histories

Dublin Fringe Festival: Caitríona Ní Mhurchú uses her past as prompt for philosophical exploration of nature of time

Rapid fire rounds, where Fionnuala Gygax’s questions were posed as ‘would you rathers’ and directed towards a specific context (the future climate emergency), provided a little more energy to proceedings

Dublin Fringe Festival: Interesting ideas get lost amidst the casual ‘improvised’ banter of interview format

Paul Fahy and Enda Walsh photo Andrew Downes believe ‘a festival is a great framework for people to be more experimental, and this just fit the bill’. Photograph: Andrew Downes

Changing Room explores the inner life of a man verging on change – a timely Covid-19 era work

Before You Say Anything, which will be performed at Dublin Castle’s Chapel Royal. Every audience member, director Claire O’Reilly says of the play, ‘will bring their own perspective to it. Every audience member will have a different opinion.’

Dublin Fringe Festival asked them to create a new work and Malaprop Theatre jumped at the chance

Dublin Theatre Festival director Willie White says a business model for digital theatre has emerged during lockdown. Photograph: Dave Meehan

Dublin Theatre Festival 2020: Live performance is more important than ever, says Willie White

Lisa Tierney-Keogh’s This Beautiful Virtual Village premieres online via the Abbey Theatre on August 17th. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Adapting her play for Zoom was ‘probably the hardest thing I have ever done’

Conor Hanratty says he found the limits of the Tiny Plays 600-word format “scary but liberating”.

A Japanese mentor helped to inspire Conor Hanratty’s online short play War Paint

There is “an intimacy with the roads that you can only get when you are hitching and you don’t get a ride”.

DIY stagecraft and theatrical invention get Tuam performer out under Tilt of the Sky

Jack Ryder’s debut novel is an exciting tale that grounds its gentle fantasy in the emotional life of its young hero.

Unadoptable children and plenty of tigers feature in this collection of adventures

Groskop is happy to admit that, occasionally, the film versions of her favourite French books serve as more of a touchstone than the texts themselves.

Viv Groskop sheds light on how personal readings of books can shift with time

Pat Kiernan instructs  Lucianne McEvoy Collins, Tadhg Murphy and Frankie McCafferty at Fitzgerald Park, Cork, at rehearsals of The Numbered by Elias Canetti. Photograph: Krzysztof Zielenski

Drama is fine online, but the deep art thrill needs innovative collective experience spaces

The Longest Strongest Thread by Inbal Leitner

Adventures and mysteries abound in this month’s releases for younger readers

Howie the Rookie

Howie the Rookie at The Lock Inn is running online on Wednesday nights until June 10th

Raven Smith’s book is structured as a series of discrete chapters, but the subject matter is largely overlapping and the language exhaustingly descriptive. Photograph: Darren Gerrish/WireImage

Raven Smith’s flashy literary style glitters with dense detail but little of substance

A view of performers in Expanding Fields by Jenny Roche

The coronavirus outbreak forced a rethink for the cutting-edge arts festival – with intriguing results

Michelle Paver: ‘One thing that has always frustrated me is that journalists, readers, booksellers, often use the word fantasy to describe the books, but Torak, Renn, these are not Stone Age superheroes.’ Photograph: Anthony Upton

The bestselling children’s author on making sure her fantasies are grounded in reality

Struan Murray’s debut novel Orphans of the Tide is a seaside story with a dark and magical twist.

Seaside tales full of magic and mystery, and a bear looking for chocolate cake

Scene from Sruth na Teanga

Set in Galway Airport, the audience is led to an understanding of how Gaeilge evolved

Playwright and theatre maker Sian Ní Mhuirí.

A celebration of Irish crystallographer Kathleen Lonsdale’s achievements

Patience Agbabi tells the story of Elle’s time-travelling talents.

Plus books from Gareth P. Jones, Kristin Roskifte, Yoko Tanaka and Noelle Smit

Derbhle Crotty  takes on the leading role of Madame Ranevskaya in The Cherry Orchard

Play will be live-streamed to cinemas in March in a first for an Irish production

As well as traditional theatre, Scene+Heard includes stand-up comedy, circus arts, live music and spoken-word poetry sessions.

Smock Alley’s new work showcase features 85 performance pieces on stage

What I (Don’t) Know About Autism:  Inclusivity defines the aesthetic as well as the experience of the show. Photograph: Ros Kavanagh

Theatre review: Jody O’Neill’s timely new play has a wide emotional register

Amelie Metcalfe and Carolyn Dobbin: Hansel and Gretel is the first opera that Theatre Lovett have produced. However, they have a long history of working with music. Photograph: Ros Kavanagh

A family-friendly Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel aims to draw in children

Dawn McNiff’s Love From Alfie McPoonst The Best Dog Ever: Izzy’s dog Alfie has died, and she misses him terribly

Plus Two Bears, A House Without Walls, Lost, Agent Zaiba Investigates, Demelza and the Spectre Detectors

Taking the role of a woman who kills her children is not easy with children of your own

Seamus O’Rourke is nominated in the Best Actor category of the Irish Times Irish Theatre Awards for his performance as Son in TRAD

Catch the final dates of the well-travelled and well-received production of TRAD

Restoration, directed by Darren Thornton with  Kate Stanley Brennan and John Cronin. Project Arts Centre, January 28th-February 1st

Shaun Dunne’s new play Restoration examines the tensions embedded in social work

Aaron Monaghan in The Travels of Jonathan Swift by Conall Morrison, Blue Raincoat Theatre Company

From the epic to the intimate, 2019 was a year of outstanding Irish theatre

 Author, Marita Conlon-McKenna, pictured at home in Dublin.Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Thirty years after Under the Hawthorn Tree, the author has written a Famine story for adults

From right, Alex Murphy, Don Wycherley, Paul Mescal and Aisling Kearns from the cast  of the Gaiety’s  production of Martin McDonagh’s The Lieutenant of Inishmore. Photograph: Mark Stedman

In the 1990s Druid passed on The Lieutenant of Inishmore – the political temperature is different now

Blackwater Babble

Ronan Fitzgibbon’s Blackwater Babble and Irene Kelleher’s Gone Full Havisham

Emily Fox, Laurence Falconer,  Niall O’Brien and Gemma Kane in 48

Gemma Kane’s debut play 48 sees the human side of the 1981 Stardust nightclub fire

An illustration by Karl James Mountford from The Midnight Zoo by Maudie Powell-Tuck

Stories of a lost cat, a lost bird and friendships in moments of hardship and difficulty

Weekend Warrior  will be in the Civic Theatre, Tallaght  until January 5th.

Shows include mass physical therapy to theatrical portraits of minds under siege

From right, Alex Murphy, Don Wycherley, Paul Mescal and Aisling Kearns from the cast of Martin McDonagh’s The Lieutenant of Inishmore, which will run at the Gaiety Theatre. Photograph: Mark Stedman

Chekhov, McDonagh and O’Casey to be staged, along with newcomers to Irish scene

Elf: A Christmas SpectacularStarring Kym Marsh & Shaun Williamson is in Dublin’s 3Arena until December 29th. Photograph: Graham Stone/

Room on the Broom and Buddy the Elf aim to please over the holiday season

A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings

Abbey Theatre play’s spiritual undertones feel appropriate to Christmas time

Voulez-vous? The international touring production of Mamma Mia!, starring Irish West End star Sharon Sexton, is at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre until January 5th

Well That’s What I Heard explores class divisions; Mamma Mia! explores Abba hits

Cinderella stars Jenny Dixon, Jake Carter, Alan Hughes and Michele McGrath. Photograph: Leon Farrell/Photocall

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

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

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

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 (...)

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

‘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

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