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Broad canvas

The best in young people's theatre needs to be the best in anyone's theatre, says Timothy Ramsden, opening a four-page listing of the season's rep and touring attractions

Young people's theatre spread across unusually large canvases in late 1995. John Retallack may have taken flak for his comments on the alleged lack of tough theatre for the young in Britain but his Oxford Stage Company pair of double-bills Making the Future brought excellent production and acting values to work for the young, and the two Bosnia plays at least are valuable contributuions to theatre which we may hope will be seen again.

We're always being told a problem isn't solved by having money thrown at it but the Pounds 100,000 Tyneside Tec gave for Northern Stage's The Nest of Spices was not wasted. Hard by the deserted Swan Hunter shipyard in Wallsend, secondary classes had doors opened for them - and did a lot of literal door-opening themselves in a vast journey of discovery from the baggage of the past through present conflicts to a hopeful future. Followed immediately by workshops, the performances were an attempt to build a sense of purpose among the young; the project must be one of the most enlightened pieces of sponsorship in recent years.

Watch out for Teatro Kismet's excellent Pinocchio seen last summer at Nottingham Playhouse, which now tours the show. It's a rumbustious, gentle and moral tale rooted in the skills of the actors and was one of several fine shows for the young in the summer - a new, panto-free growth which should be encouraged. Christmas also saw fine, original work in places like Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North Staffordshire, Bolton and Chester.

Which provides light mid the continuing gloom of slashed subsidies. We no longer have an Arts Minister but one for National Heritage. In the middle of Mrs Bottomley's seat lies Farnham with its Redgrave Theatre shut into its second year, its very fabric warping. Surely a potent symbol - but no-one seems to mind very much. Thankfully the last weeks of 1995 saw a new rep open in Norfolk, the Norwich Playhouse, with the kind of full programme we must hope they can maintain. And before our very eyes, in Scarborough, the 20th century trend from theatre to cinema is being reversed as Alan Ayckbourn prepares to move his company into their new, ex-Odeon home due to open in April.

South West EXETER: Northcott (01392 493493) see also Method Madness, tours - Tim Firth's fine businesmen bonding comedy Neville's Island March 14-30.

Studio: Theatre Alibi's Little White Lies February 6-10; Cathy Turner's Glorious Death February 12-17, a solo about a Trojan barkeeper; Paul McClure's new play about Benjamin Britten's tenorlover Peter Pears A Curlew's Cry February 21-March 2; Turning Point in Lyn Ferrand's play about Carers March 4-9 and Orchard Theatre's tale of Billy Fury and the Falklands, Halfway to Paradise March 12-16, written by Nick Discombe.

BRISTOL: Theatre Royal (0117-987 7877) Much Ado About Nothing February 8-March 2; Reginald Rose's jury drama Twelve Angry Men March 7-April 6; Tony Robinson, Mark Billingham and David Lloyd's musical Maid Marian and Her Merry Men April 12-May 4; Arthur Miller's version of Ibsen's An Enemy of the People May 10-June 1.

SALISBURY: Playhouse (01722-320333) The Norman Conquests to February 24 (noon start trilogies February 10,17,24); The Woman in Black February 29-March 16, a homecoming from Derby for Tess of the D'Urbervilles; March 21-April 13, youth theatre Lorca from Stage 65, Blood Wedding April 18-20; a big Behn season with Aphra's The Rover and The Banished Cavaliers April 26-May 25, with pre-show Restoration Comedy workshops May 17-24.

Salberg Studio: Anti-slaver Dr Johnson and his black servant Francis Barber feature as subjects of Maureen Lawrence's Resurrection March 5-9, then toured by Paines Plough; a short Macbeth February 27-March 2; two two-handers revolving in repertory, contrasting relations between male teacher and female taught in Educating Rita and Mamet's Oleanna March 14-April 13.

SOUTHAMPTON: Nuffield (01703 671771) Australian political correctness comedy Dead White Males February 8-March 2; musical Face March 14-April 6 (see Hornchurch); Michele Celeste's grotesque comedy The Price of Meat April 18-May 11; Charley's Aunt May 23-June 15.

Southern England BASINGSTOKE:Haymarket (01256 465566): Private Lives to February 10; My Cousin Rachel February 29-March 23; Shadowlands April 11-May 4; Neil SimonMarvin Hamlisch musical They're Playing our Song May 9-June 1.

NEWBURY: Watermill (01635 46044) musical revue Warts and All February 13-March 16; US futurism from the Watermill Youth Theatre in Elmer Rice's The Adding Machine March 20-23; Driving Miss Daisy April 2-May 11; The Entertainer May 14-June 8; final Norman Conquests instalment Round and Round the Garden June 11-July 20.

LEATHERHEAD: Thorndike (01372 377677) Present Laughter February 5-17; a new Peter HallNicky Frei version of Feydeau's Emily Needs Attention February 27-March 23; Simon Williams' new Cornish thriller Switchback March 25-April 13.

HORNCHURCH: (01708 443333) Face: The Musical With Bottle February 1-24 is a modern musicalisation of Ben Jonson. Along with Bob Eaton, Julian Littman and Philip Whitchurch, the credit of Bob Carlton shows like this could give The Alchemist something like the makeover Return to the Forbidden Planet gave The Tempest. Steel Magnolias February 28-March 23, the worst film in the world, is turned into a rock funny in David Smith and Warren Wills' Plan 9 from Outer Space - The Musical! March 28-April 20; Dave Simpson's version of The Railway Children April 24-May 18.

East Anglia SOUTHEND-ON-SEA: Palace (01702 342564) Bedroom Farce February 8-24; Robert Malcolm McGowan's new thriller Fatal Connection March 7-23; Snap in Howard's End March 25-30; Ben Elton's Gasping April 4-20; 1950s Rock 'n' Roll Tutti Frutti April 22-May 4; The Woman in Black May 9-24, Hull Truck in Lucky Sods May 28-June 1; Peter Quilter's Southend Community Play June 20-22, music by Charles Miller.

WATFORD: Palace (01923 225671) Karen Hope's praised thriller Foreign Lands to March 2; Charley's Aunt March 8-30; Face April 10-May 4 (see Hornchurch); Diane Samuels' highly thought of Kindertransport. May 24-June 15; Peter Ustinov's fantasy Beethoven's Tenth June 21-July 31.

COLCHESTER: Mercury (01206 573948) Arthur Miller's The Last Yankee February 8-March 2; Kate Wood's adaptation of Northanger Abbey March 7-30; Louise Page's female athletes Golden Girls April 11-27; Noises Off May 2-25.

IPSWICH: Wolsey (01473 253725) The Business of Murder February 22-March 9; David Glass Ensemble's musical of the film La Dolce Vita March 13-16; Geoffrey Beevers' version of Adam Bede March 21-30; A Chorus of Disapproval April 4-27; What Every Woman Knows May 2-18; Lettice and Lovage May 31-June 15.

NORWICH: Playhouse (01603 766466) a new Amold Wesker Blood Libel to February 17 stretches race-hate across the centuries in Norfolk; Kiss Me Kate February 22-March 16; Romeo and Juliet March 21-April 13; The Last Yankee April 18-May 4; Roger Parsley's stage version of The Go-Between May 9-25.

East Midlands NORTHAMPTON: Royal (01604 32533) Trollope's last novel An Old Man's Love to February 24, adapted by director Michael Napier Brown; Ben Elton's Gasping March 1-30; Top Girls April 12-May 4; Daniel Hill's fact-based battleshock recovery drama Shaken Not Stirred May 10-June 1; Shaw's The Millionairess June 7-29.

LEICESTER: Haymarket (0116 2539797) A Midsummer Night's Dream February 8-March 2; The Homecoming March 7-23; Howard Barker's non-avuncular hotshot with a potshot (uncle) Vanya April 18-27; from The Wrestling School, Peter Nichols' Privates on Parade May 3-25.

Studio: Kiss of the Spiderwoman February 1-17; Paul Hodson's version of Bill Bryson's US myth The Lost Continent February 21-24; Juno and the Paycock March 14-30; Mahesh Dattani's look at India's silicone valley Bravely Fought the Queen April 3-6; Franz Xavier Kroetz's Munich factoryhand Mensch Meier April 12-27.

NOTTINGHAM: Playhouse (0115 941 9419) return of Romanian Silviu Purcarete's production of The Tempest February 7-16 David Ives' six brief comic New York views of language All in the Timing February 22-March 16; Albee's second-best play A Delicate Balance March 21-April 6; the Brecht-Weill musical Happy End April 17-May 11; Nona Shepphard's adaptation of Michael Rosen's tale of a boy and a skeleton, You're Thinking About Doughnuts May 31-June 15.

DERBY: Playhouse (01332 363275) Tess of the D'Urbervilles February 23-March 16; Ayckbourn's Time of My Life March 22-April 13; Jim Cartwright's The Rise and Fall of Little Voice April 26-May 18; sex-assault thriller Extremities May 31-June 22; Tim Elgood's community play about senior citizen assertiveness, with a cast aged 15 to 75, Buster's Last Stand June 26-29; A Chorus Line August 23-September 28.

West Midlands south wales CARDIFF: Sherman (01222 230451) Tours, including Mappa Mundi's brief Hamlet Prince of Denmark February 13-17.

CHELTENHAM: Everyman (01242 572573): see tours.

WORCESTER: Swan (01905 27322) The Merchant of Venice February 8-March 2, Gary Lyons' Plague play Ring-a Ring o'Roses March 7-23; into the Baths with Nell Dunn Steaming April 4-27.

COVENTRY: Belgrade (01203 553055) Calamity Jane February 29-March 16; Of Mice and Men March 28-April 13; Belgrade Youth Theatre in Shut Up and Dance May 1-4; Face May 8-18 (see Hornchurch); more on the musical bandwagon in Wakey! Wakey! In Bed with Billy Cotton June 13-29.

BIRMINGHAM: Repertory Theatre (0121 236 4455) The Entertainer to March 2;The Winslow Boy March 8-April 6;Peter Whelan's new monarchical probe Divine Right April 19-May 11; Gentlemen Prefer Blondes May 17-June 8; a new version of David Edgar's adaptation of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde June 28-July 20.

Studio; a double bill, Larrington Walker's Visions of Youth, giving a documentary context to Jeff Stetson's The Meeting March 12-23, the meeting in question being between Malcolm X and Martin Luther King; Lyn Coghlan's Bretevski Street March 26-30 (and regional tour February 28-March 23) brings together two divided families in a conflict zone; Swamp City April 25-May 18, is Paul Lucas's bizarre look at lifestyles urban but not urbane; an evening with the noble poet in George Costigan's Trust Byron May 22-June 8; the welcome return of Lisa Evans' excellent adaptation of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall June 14-July 6.

NORTH STAFFORDSHIRE; New Victoria (01782 717962) Macbeth February 7-17; February 26-March 16; Talking Heads February 21-24; March 18-23; April 9-13; 23-27, Ghosts March 27-April 6; April 15-20; The Rise and Fall of Little Voice May 1-25; Gilbert and Sullivan double, cricketing Mikado May 29-June 15; July 1-3; 6-9; 13-16 and 20, and a seaside postcard Pirates of Penzance June 19-29; July 4-6; 10-13; 17-20.

North West north wales CHESTER: Gateway (01244 340392) Neil Simon's California Suite February 2-24 Bouncers March 1-23; Craig Warner's version of Patricia Highsmith's wife-murder swapping Strangers on a Train March 29-April 20; a Liverpool comedy by Frank Jones It's Now or Never May 11-June 1; Jeremy Raison and Akintayo Akinbode's musical Heart and Soul July 19-August 24.

MOLD: Theatr Clwyd (01352 755114) Little-known J B Priestley The Long Mirror February 9-March 2; The Government Inspector March 15-April 13; The Deep Blue Sea April 25-May 25.

Emlyn Williams Theatre: Nick Dear's Ostrovsky adaptation A Family Affair March 29-April 20; James M Cain's thriller adapted by David Joss Buckley, Double Indemnity May 17-June 8.

LIVERPOOL: Everyman (0151 709 4776) Tommy Cooper's story in Garry Lyons' Frankie and Tommy February 7-March 2; Death and the Maiden March 27-April 2O.

Playhouse (0151 7O9 8363) musical Ferry Cross the Mersey February 8-March 9 brings Gerry and the Pacemakers on stage face to face with their younger selves c1959-1965; Shirley Valentine March 11-April 6.

LANCASTER: Duke's (01524 66645) twice daily for three to six-year-olds Chris Speyer's hour-long The Enormously Big Weed March 7-23; Promenade open-air shows in Williamson Park: A Midsummer Night's Dream June 6-July 6; John Chambers' version of The Three Musketeers July 11-August 24.

Greater Manchester MANCHESTER: Contact (0161 274 44004747) Accidental Death of an Anarchist to February 17; schools' festival Love and Betrayal March 19-30; Waiting for Godot April 11-May 4.

Library Theatre (0161 236 7110) David Hare's version of Brecht's The Life of Galileo February 15-March 16; Dave Simpson's version of The Secret Garden March 29-April 27; Body 115 May 9-25. Michael Crompton's play starts with the King's Cross fire and, with a body unidentified, moves into Cracker territory ending on speculative notes not totally unlike Ayckbourn's Wildest Dreams, May 30-June 29 Wythenshawe Forum Theatre (0161 437 9663) Neville's Island February 29-March 23; The Woman in Black April 18-May 4.

Royal Exchange (0161 833 9833) The Rivals February 8-March 23; Tess of the D'Urbervilles March 28-May 4 on Michael Fry's version. Alex Finlayson's new play about the traumatic MillerMonroe film the Misfits May 9-June 1; Hindle Wakes June 6-July 6; classic US comedy The Philadelphia Story July 11-August 17.

BOLTON: Octagon (01204 520661) Talking Heads 2 to February 17; A View from the Bridge February 22-March 23; The Ghost Train March 28-April 27; Edward II May 3-25; Under Milk Wood May 31-June 22.

OLDHAM: Coliseum (0161 624 2829) Side by Side by Sondheim February 23-March 23 Love on the Dole April 17-May 11; Ayckbourn's Just Between Ourselves May 15-June 8.

Granada Studio: Derek Walcott's Caribbean comedy Pantomime March 6-23.

Yorkshire and North East SHEFFIELD: Crucible (0114 276 9922) La Dolce Vita with the David Glass Ensemble February 23-March 9; Way Upstream March 22-April 13.

Studio: Gloria's Edwardian transformation Lady into Fox March 15-23; Compass in Dr Faustus April 1-6.

LEEDS: West Yorkshire Playhouse (0113 244 2111). Quarry: The Government Inspector February 10-March 16; The Entertainer March 23-April 20, from Birmingham; as is The Winslow Boy April 26-May 25.

Courtyard: Theatre de Complicite in the Crusoe via Coetzee desert-island foe Februry 29-March 30, Hylda Baker revisited in "She Knows You Know!" April 4-May 4.

HARROGATE:Theatre (01423 502116) The Diary of Anne Frank to February 10; Talking Heads February 15-March 2; Cat on a Hot Tin Roof March 7-23 with Williams's original script; Gasping March 28-April 13; David Mamet's translation of The Three Sisters April 25-May 11.

YORK: Theatre Royal (01904 623568) A Passionate Woman February 12-24; A View from the Bridge March 7-23; The York Mystery Plays June 6-3O.

NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE:Royal Shakespeare Company (0191 232 2O61). Theatre Royal The Taming of the Shrew February 19-27; Romeo and Juliet March 1-9; Julius Caesar March 13-16; Richard III March 19-23.

Newcastle Playhouse: The Relapse February 19-27; The Devil is an Ass February 29-March 9; The Cherry Orchard March 11-16; Faust. Parts I and II March 18-23.

Gulbenkian Studio: Calderon's The Painter of Dishonour March 11-16; Euripides' The Phoenician Women March 18-23.

Northern Stage Company (0191 230 5151) Newcastle Playhouse: Tom Hadaway's story of North Shields fishers The Long Line April 17-May 11.

Gulbenkian Studio: The Wasp Factory February 13-March 21 (and tour).

Scotland GLASGOW: Citizens' (0141 429 0022) Giles Havergal's witty staging of Graham Greene's comic novel returns, Travels With My Aunt to February 17; following the success of Trainspotting Irvine Welsh is again staged by Harry Gibson in Marabou Stork Nightmares March 1-23.

Circle Studio Lookout Theatre return with Nicola McCartney's fine play about rape and the problems of turning allegation into conviction Easy February 6-17; and a late Tennessee Williams In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel February 29-March 23.

Stalls Studio Cocteau's The Human Voice February 28-March 23.

EDINBURGH: Royal Lyceum (0131 229 9697) Of Mice and Men February 9-March 2; Robert Forrest's new history play Montrose March 8-23; Trainspotting March 25-3O; Pygmalion April 12-May 4.

Traverse: (0131 228 1404) The Architect February 23-March 10 - David Greig's new play sounds like a 20th-century Master-Builder.

PERTH: Theatre (01738 621 031) Aleksei Arbusov's Old World February 9-24; Abigail's Party March 1-16; The Woman in Black March 22-April 6; Anne Downie's musical bingo play Two Fat Ladies April 19-May 4.

DUNDEE:Rep Theatre (01382 223530) The Glass Menagerie to February 10; Trainspotting February 13-17; My Mother Said I Never Should March 5-23; Alan Spence's history of Timex on the Tay On the Line April 9-27; 7:84 with Angels in America April 30-May 4; Measure for Measure May 14-June 1.

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