In this year’s Christmas special edition of The Spectator, there is an article by me about the best way to get your kids interested in the theatre.

Don’t worry, it’s not as dry and worthy as it sounds. Plus, it opens up with me getting hit in the face, so there’s that.

The issue of The Spectator it’s in looks like this:

The Spectator magazine front cover Christmas 2013

And like most things it’s available to read online too.

Anyway, in the article, I talk about taking my son to see some shows, but the venues don’t get mentioned. Now, the venue can be a big factor in how enjoyable a performance is (for kids and adults) so it’s only right that they get recognition.

The first show he saw, Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom, was at the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury, who knew it was his first time going and made it really special for him, giving him lunch before the performance and a free helium balloon. It’s important to note that it was helium. Kids lose their shit over helium.

Down in this part of the world, we’re blessed with a number of good theatres, so the following week we visited the Gulbenkian Theatre, again in Canterbury, to watch The Poetry Joe Show.

Performed and co-written by Joseph Coelho, it’s a gentle, lo-fi production, and is so small that the audience sit onstage with Poetry Joe, who is armed an overhead projector and a book covered in flashing lights. Using these, he performs pre-written poems, accompanied by pictures beamed onto the wall behind him. He also makes up poems on the spot, using suggestions from the children.

It’s a magical, beautifully simple and utterly engaging show, and if you’ve got under-eights, take them. This performance was a far cry from Ben and Holly, and was an immersive experience with the child at the centre, and asked them to use their own imaginations to enrich the stories.

If Ben and Holly is Disneyland, Poetry Joe is the local park, which made it all the more surprising how much more engaged all the kids were. In this age of rapidly decreasing attention spans, it was the smaller, less energetic show that captured their concentration the best.

The final show mentioned in the article was Aliens Love Underpants, which we also caught at the Marlowe (I reported on the Marlowe when it first reopened back in 2011). It really is a lovely venue, and hosts some excellent productions, either in the main auditorium, or the smaller Marlowe Studio.

So, that was it – just wanted to give credit where it’s due. Carry on.