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OnOff Stage

This year's National Youth Theatre fortieth birthday season is as eclectic a mix as we have come to expect from the country's leading youth theatre company. It opened on Tuesday with They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, to be followed by A Plague on Both Your Houses and Othello.

A Plague on Both Your Houses is a new work devised and directed by Peter Brooks that sets out to debunk the notion of romantic love. Brooks says: "The mythology of pain and the destructiveness of romantic love is a male construct. "

To make his point, he sets Romeo and Juliet in the Trojan war, "mirroring the romance between Romeo and Juliet with the anti-romance of Troilus and Cressida. To Juliet and Cressida, he adds Rosalind, Romeo's ex, and Helen, as of Troy, to look at the types they represent in what Brooks admits is "a cynical view of the place that Romeo and Juliet and Shakespeare have in our culture." Performances are from September 3 to 21 at The Place Theatre, London. Booking: 0171 387 0031.

A date for your diary: a conference, Shakespeare and Tudor Theatrical Traditions, takes place on September 10 and 11 at the International Shakespeare Globe Centre, London. The conference "celebrates the prologue season for the newly reconstructed Globe Theatre on Bankside and the strengthening of ties between the scholarly and artistic strands of the project". Participants will have the opportunity of seeing performances of The Two Gentlemen of Verona and Richard Edwards' Damon and Pythias, as well as taking part in a range of workshops with the casts of both plays. For further details, contact Rosalind King, School of English and Drama, Queen Mary and Westfield College. Fax: 0181 980 6200.

A bit of a brouhaha is about to erupt on the banks of the River Mersey. Brouhaha International, the arts organisation based in Liverpool, is presenting Invisible Cities, which explores the links between Liverpool and the Wirral. The main site of the production is to be at Morpeth Dock, on the Birkenhead side of the river from September 6 to 8. Building up to the production itself will be a community outreach programme. If it all sounds a bit mysterious, it's because at this stage it still is. To find out more, contact Brouhaha International on 0151 709 3334.

Two new publications by A C Black on set and stage design that could be of use to drama teachers at whatever level: Designing for the Theatre (Pounds 9.99) by Frances Reid, head of theatre design at the London Central School of Art and Design, is an introduciton to the subject, taking the reader through practical considerations of theatre building, visual style, design process and realisation and new technologies. Generously if not exactly lavishly illustrated, it is a useful guide. Jacquie Govier's Create Your Own Stage Costumes (Pounds 12.99) is very much a how-to book that any teacher could get something out of. Govier has obviously been through a school production or two in her time and very efficiently covers the gamut of costume design, from seams to zips, tie-dying to animal masks. Just flicking through it could, on a good day, have you champing at the bit for your next Christmas show.

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