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Onoff stage

What better way to treat the effects of election campaign fatigue than to head off to Manchester, where Contact Theatre and Walk the Plank ("the remarkable sea-borne theatre company") present Gulliver's Travels.

This is no ordinary show. To watch it, you step aboard Britain's only touring theatre ship, the Fitzcarraldo, at Salford Quays. The ship, formerly a Norwegian ferry, was brought by the company from somewhere beyond the Arctic Circle and has recently been refurbished with National Lottery funding. It's not just a gimmicky venue: the fabric and machinery of the ship are brought into the performance.

It sounds an ideal setting for the play, written and directed by Andrew Farrell, Contact's associate artistic director. The show employs puppets and special effects, with specially composed music.

Catch it at Salford Quays, Salford, from May 8 to 18. Thereafter, it tours in Scotland and Orkney until July. For bookings, ring the Contact Theatre box office on 0161 274 4400.

Back on terra firma, Good Company brings Hard Times to the glorious Hackney Empire for seven performances only, from April 22 to 26, as part of its national tour.

Directed by Sue Pomeroy and starring Fenella Fielding and Philip Madoc, Dickens' novel about the dehumanisation of industrialism finds an interesting setting in the midst of post-industrial Hackney.

From there, the production moves to the Theatre Royal, Lincoln (April 28-May 3, box office 01522 525555) and Theatre Royal, Nottingham (May 12-17, box office 0115 948 2626). To book at the Hackney Empire, ring 0181 985 2424.

The Patchwork Quilt, a drama project involving primary and secondary school students, teachers and trainee teachers, about ageing, continuity and loss, is being presented by London Drama in association with National Drama on April 26.

Drama teachers Paul Bunyan and John Rainer will be facilitating the all-day session, illustrating how a series of encounters between an elderly woman and her past is used to explore colonialism and oppression in African Caribbean and eastern European history, among other places. The session is relevant to all teachers of drama and English at key stages 2 and 3. For more information and bookings, ring or fax the Holborn Centre for the Performing Arts on 0171 405 4519.

Saturday shows for little ones coming up at Battersea Arts Centre, London: Kazzum Arts Project's musical adaptation of Edward Lear's Pea Soup for three to six-year-olds; Banyan Theatre Company's puppet version of a Russian fairytale, Baba Yaga Bony Legs, with music, for three to eight-year-olds. For bookings, ring 0171 223 2223.

One for the diary: The National Association for the Teaching of Drama will hold its residential conference from June 27 to 29 at Newman College, Birmingham. There will be a wide range of workshops and theatre in education performances. Details from Carmel O'Sullivan on 0121 476 1181.

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