If you do ONE thing for your kids this Christmas...

A favourite from last Christmas. And I hope to bring you another theatre review soon!

There's theatre and there's theatre. Full disclosure: I'm not a fan of am-dram and generally speaking don't have an appetite for anything that could be described as 'kids entertainment' (perhaps ironic considering what I do).

But I'm a huge fan of the arts and very much want my kids to grow up with the tradition of an annual (or even biannual) theatre visit. I want them to sense the anticipation of what's behind the curtain; the excitement of live performance; the real-time 'kapow' of real-life art... the curtain call; the encore; the coseting from the outside world for just an hour or two; to understand that here (unlike the movies) there really is no place for noisy snacks with wrapping that rustles (why do people attribute a snacking opportunity to almost any occasion?) I don't want the filter of a screen. I want the proximity of actors [who are pursuing the craft not the fame]. And I want there to be prices that aren't prohibitive, and theatre companies who are progressive, and not to have to travel to London.

Thank goodness for The Bristol Old Vic. We just saw their performance of Swallows and Amazons and it was all kinds of perfect: witty songs, captivating and very often very funny performances (children's parts played-up brilliantly by adults and the kind of nostalgia that I'm pretty certain resonated with many in the audience, propping up memories of when we as 'free range' kids had imagination, space, and little else besides).

I loved the simple propping: a mast to represent a boat; blue ribbons to ripple the sea. My own kids, more attuned to a maximalist big production approach, were bemused but not put off and I have to say that it prompted all kinds of make-believe the following day ("mummy can we borrow the chairs to pretend they're horses?")

But don't be fooled by such a modest approach to what's on the boards. The show is directed by Tom Morris, alumni of the National Theatre, responsible for shows including War Horse. The music was written by Neil Hannon, of the Divine Comedy. Both the story and the Bristol old Vic I think need no introduction?

The kids favourite bit of course was the pelting of [foam] rocks into the audience (Finn's now has pride of place in his window). My favourite bit was simply sharing one of the oldest art forms in the world with my kids, and to show them that live performance basically outdoes anything they could show me on YouTube.

Please support your local theatre and do please support this one in particular - having seen the programme for 2015 I can't wait until our next visit.