Ancient activities unveiled

11th April 2003 at 01:00
Take a few inventions, add some experiments, a dash of opera and a lot of tragedy, and the result is this week's round-up from Heather Neill

Gospel truths

At a time when the world's great religions are in danger of being polarised anew, it is enlightening to be told that prayer mats were known in eighth-century Northumbria. Painted Labyrinth: the World of the Lindisfarne Gospels at the British Library provides this little nugget amidst many insights into an often neglected period. The artwork in this sumptuous work reflects Celtic, Germanic, Roman, Coptic and Byzantine influences, and thus the so-called "Insular" art of the period is revealed as the product of a multicultural society. Written in ink made from oak galls and iron salts, the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John cover 259 leaves of vellum, which was made from 150 hides of yearling cattle.The 10th-century monk, Aldred, identified the artist-scribe of the Gospels as Eadfrith, Bishop of Lindisfarne (698-721). Artist and calligrapher, he may also have invented the lead pencil and the concept of the light box. Special resource kits will be made available to teachers in the north-east of England and a facsimile of the Gospels will be toured there. Exhibition opens May 16.

Admission free. Information: www.bl.uk.

Creative tension

Croydon Clocktower's Fascinating Forces (subtitled "May the science be with you") promises to be an unusual interactive exhibition based on Victorian optical games, experiments and demonstrations. Discover the power of gravity and energy, make a tornado appear, or try to catch your shadow on luminous paper. There will be family events this month, during half-term and in July which involve an inflatable planetarium, vanishing pencils, farting balloons and, in the summer, Gary the Clown making science fun for very young children. Tickets: 020 8253 1030.

More sinned against...

Timothy West is a moving, sadly bereft king, rather than a broken tyrant in Stephen Unwin's production of King Lear for English Touring Theatre at the Old Vic in London. This is an admirably clear, accessible production, played on a simple set in Jacobean dress - ideal for a student's first encounter with this epic work. Until April 19. Tickets: 020 7369 1722.

Train shed opera

More than 200 young people from six primary schools have been writing songs about their city, Bristol, with the help of Welsh National Opera.

Performances of the result are among the events to take place during Opera in a Shed, a programme of workshops, demonstrations and performances in the Victorian passenger shed at Bristol Temple Meads station, designed by Brunel. Tomorrow there is the opportunity to learn opera choruses from professionals, to watch percussionists at work, and to be inducted into the secrets of wigs and make-up. Bookings: 0117 987 7877. Further information: www.wno.org.uk.

Bloody classic

Four young actors on a slightly rickety multi-level set in a small space just off Fleet Street, London, are managing to re-enact convincingly one of the most famous tragedies in Greek literature. Aeschylus's Agamemnon, about jealousy, adultery and murder at the end of the Trojan War, requires absolute conviction on the part of its players; any faltering could turn the high-flown tragedy to farce, but this company, Actors Of Dionysus, hold their audience unswervingly in their intense chamber version. David Stuttard, ex-classics teacher, has successfully added another to his series of adaptations of the Greeks. Next will be Oedipus, which starts a national tour at the Crucible in Sheffield, on September 22. Further information, including tour dates: 01273 320 396; www.actorsofdionysus.com. Agamemnon is playing at the Bridewell Theatre until April 19.

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