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A date with drama;Theatre Preview

Theatre's not just for arts and literature students. Even in the specialised secondary curriculum there's a cross-curricular feel. Liverpool Everyman's working on theatre and science, and last autumn Bolton Octogon gave us Les Smith's Early One Morning in which the execution of a First World War deserter was turned from historical fact into human drama, with multiple viewpoints and human detail.

We saw a serjeant mix commands and coaxing to rustle up an unwilling grave-digging party, the British Army's offer of 10 day's leave from the trenches for volunteers, the use of a whisky bottle to anaesthetise conscience. Based in fact, Smith's play brought an aspect of war vividly to life. Strong artistic times in Bolton.

And in Birmingham, where Bill Alexander provided a brisk, detailed, imaginatively set and lit Hamlet with an unconventional Prince in Richard McCabe, a sheltered scholar gone mad when reality's harsh touch smashes his idealisations. With Bill Bryden's fine Three Sisters plus new work in The Door studio, Birmingham's programme has a confidence borne of artistic vision matched with increased funding.

Welcome back to the North's other major player, Manchester's Royal Exchange, with an exciting programme of revivals and new work and an active season including plenty of shows for young people in its new Studio.

There will be three workshops in school or at the theatre for every production, main house and studio, for groups up to 30. Plus teacher's packs - a sample, on Much Ado, besides ground plans, lighting plans etc can be downloaded from the theatre's Web site www.royalexchange.co.uk - it includes an education feedback page. More information by email at education@royalexchange.co.uk or phone 0161 932 6721.

Looking ahead, April and May in the Reading and Bracknell areas see Newbury's Watermill Theatre re-touring its Years 5 and 6 schools piece on the environment The Salmon's Tale. To book a visit contact Watermill Outreach on 01635 45834.

May sees Manchester's Streets Ahead festival celebrating British and international street art and performance (details 0161 224 0020) while Coventry Belgrade's Arts Alive, May 29-July 3, is an annual feast of regional and international work not to be missed. Details late spring from the Belgrade. With excellent-sounding programmes for young people this summer in Birmingham and Nottingham, it should be a season to cherish.

Timothy Ramsden

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