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OnOff stage

Funny how when the year is at its newest, we are at our most jaded. Never mind. In that gloriously British, endearingly optimistic labelling of school terms that is as disorienting as it is inaccurate, we are now in spring. So ignore the snow, get treatment for those pressure sores acquired during a solid week's viewing of programmes you would ordinarily avoid like the plague, buy six months supply of SlimPlan and gird your bloated loins to look 1996 in the eye with great expectationsIor something.

In the drama world, there is certainly a lot of inspiration and energy. The RSC's education department, which in the past two years has doubled in size and has worked with more than 28,000 students and nearly 2,000 teachers, is currently touring workshops around the country to support this year's RSCNat West tour of The Tempest and Edward Bond's Bingo.

A number of different sessions are on offer. "Insight sessions" in a mobile auditorium precede one of the midweek matinees, focusing on the rehearsal and production processes. Actors from the touring company and production team, and Roz Symon, education officer, lead the sessions. There are also two-hour participatory workshops that the company runs in primary and secondary schools, and further and higher education colleges.

As well as schools-based work, the RSC takes workshops into the community for young people in residential care or in the juvenile justice system, and for adults in community and recreation centres. To find out more about the work of the RSC education department, ring Jamie Cason on 0171-382 7127.

Over at the National this term, there is a full programme of all-day INSET workshops for drama and English teachers.

Topics coming up in Februrary include "Heroes and heroines: issues of gender and representation in performance" on the 10th, "Bringing Shakespeare alive" on the 16th and "The teacher as director," a two-day workshop for teachers thinking of embarking on a production, on the 23rd and 24th. For details and bookings, ring the National Theatre education department on 0171-928 2033.

If you missed the first run of the Unicorn Theatre's gloriously stylish, outrageously funny production of The Magic Flute last year, you're in luck. It's on from January 6 to 27 and is a must for opera lovers and indifferents alike, young and otherwise. To book, ring 0171-836 3334.

For those not completely satiated on Christmas pantos, the season continues. Path Productions, a company of actors with and without disabilities, presents Robin Hood at the Cochrane Theatre. This won't be any old Robin Hood. Maid Marian is played by wheelchair-bound Kim Woolfe, the villainous King John is profoundly deaf and Will Scarlet is visually impaired. The show runs from January 5 to 13. Bookings on 0171-242 7040.

Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr Fox takes to the stage in a national tour from mid-February through to May, starting at the Harlequin Theatre, Redhill, Surrey on February 12. Birmingham Stage Company's production follows their previous tour of Dahl's George's Marvellous Medicine (0121 6439050).

Readers of this column may remember an item last year on the launch of Collar and TIE's drama-based comic, The Dark Theatre. It's now in its second year and is inviting schools to subscribe to its 1996 package, which includes 30 copies of a three-part story, on-going teaching support and the opportunity to be involved in a large-scale workshopshowcase.

Aimed at classes of 10 to 16-year-olds, The Dark Theatre offers teachers and pupils a framework, through a cliff-hanging thriller, in which to explore drama techniques as well as relevant themes. This year, the programme focuses on history and bullying. Further information from Collar and TIE on 01905-610606.

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