Art beat;Arts

16th April 1999 at 01:00
Stephen Lawrence's name has come to stand for the nation's conscience. During their Easter conference the National Union of Teachers advocated a new approach to race awareness in schools: the Macpherson Report, with its definition of institutional racism, has caused soul-searching far beyond the Metropolitan police. Greenwich and Lewisham Young People's Theatre (GYPT), based in an area not far from where Stephen lived, has already stepped in to help. They have collaborated with the Participatory Theatre Project (PATH) on Time and Tidelines, a half-day programme using story, drama and character to explore racist attitudes.

Children interact with characters, played by professional actors. They experience and witness racist behaviour and then make decisions about how to take responsibility in such situations. The initiative has been so popular with teachers in Greenwich and Lewisham that this term's tour is already booked, but the programme will be offered again next year. GYPT welcomes observers who would like to see Time and Tidelines in action. Contact GYPT 0181 854 1316 to arrange a visit.

Standing by, taking the line of least resistance in the face of evil, is as old as human existence. The most glaring and bewildering example in modern history is the acquiesence in Nazism on the part of apparently perfectly reasonable Germans in the Thirties. C P Taylor, a Jew himself, tried to get into the head of just such a person in his 1981 play, Good (Donmar 0171 369 1732). Charles Dance plays Halder, a nice enough professor of literature whose closest friend happens to be Jewish. By degrees he becomes embroiled - quite logically by his own standards - in book-burning, euthanasia, Kristallnacht and, ultimately, togged up in SS uniform, the running of Auschwitz. He never seems a "bad" man; he could be one of us. And that is Taylor's point, made cogently and as relevantly as ever. Not to be missed by anyone teaching the Holocaust or, indeed, involved in anti-racist education.

Theatre has come in for some stick lately: some complain that it is alitist, too expensive and out of touch with the young. Peter Hall left the country to start a company in Los Angeles last month saying that Britain would soon lose its theatrical heritage altogether if the establishment didn't wake up. New audiences were simply not discovering the pleasure of plays, he said, and would not acquire the theatre habit.

Part of the problem is that, without adequate funding, theatre cannot be available to everyone. But do not despair. Some theatres are making an effort and some philanthropists are waiting in the wings to help. Paul Hamlyn Week will run from June 28 to July 3 to enable people who have never visited the National Theatre before to see a range of productions, including The Merchant of Venice and No'l Coward's Private Lives, for between pound;1 and pound;5.

There will also be two shows specifically for young people, Bedtime Stories, for five to eight-year-olds and storytelling for nine to 12-year-olds in Word Up! The Paul Hamlyn Foundation is donating pound;200,000 to make this possible. Applications, invited especially this year from the south-east and north-west of England, should be in by April 26, with groups limited to 53 tickets. Information and forms: 0171 452 3240. There will be free events, too, inside and outside the building.

Encouraged by the success of the first Hamlyn Week last year, when nearly 20,000 first- timers visited his theatre, the National's director, Trevor Nunn, applied to the Arts Council for support under the New Audiences Fund and set other schemes in motion including a reduced price tour of Patrick Marber's Closer later this year. Look out for this and other cheap seat deals for National productions. (Box office: 0171 452 3000.) The best bargain in London just now must be Hamlet at the Young Vic (0171 928 6363): four riveting hours with Paul Rhys brilliant as the anguished Prince. Only pound;8 per student.

Meanwhile, the Photographers' Gallery is celebrating the lives of children in Brixton and three African cities, Cape Town, Dhaka and Nairobi. Two hundred children exchanged experiences via e-mail, using photography and creative writing, between November 1997 and February this year. Some of the results can be seen in an exhibition, A Tale of Four Cities, until May 29.

Participants discussed topics of all kinds, from pollution to hairstyles, from poverty to hip-hop. For information: 0171 831 1772. Access to material from the project is available on the gallery's web site: www.photonet.org.uk programmeprojectsfourcitiesintro.html.

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