Art beat;Reviews;Arts

25th June 1999 at 01:00
Teen books are an established phenomenon; teen films are a new category, at least in Britain. Virtual Sexuality (15), based on a book for young teens published by HarperCollins, has lots of virtual characters and relationships, plenty of virtual jokes and a couple of nice easily-digested morals.

When looking for a dream date you may really be looking for a reflection of yourself - when you are 17 anyway - and, naturally, the geek turns out to be the the nicest, bravest, most interesting and best-looking guy on the block once he's dispensed with his anorak and specs.

Sex mainly takes place off-screen. Onscreen, it's represented by sighing for the impossible (girls) or boasting that the impossible has been achieved (boys). Justine, who just can't find the right guy, constructs her ideal by modifying her own image on a computer screen (using a program cunningly named "Narcissus") during a technology fair at Olympia. There's an explosion in the street and, in the ensuing mayhem, the image is not deleted. The next thing you know, Justine is experiencing boyness as Jake while still being herself as well. Confusions and misunderstandings follow, and insights are gained into what makes males tick. Suddenly Alex, the glamorous local stud, just looks crass and, eventually, caring nerd Chas wins the day.

It's all a lot of fun, although not all stereotypes are dealt with so subtly - it's an insult to be called gay, and clever women are not allowed to be attractive. What parents will think of a 17-year-old virgin being as rare as a sighting of Liz Hurley in a cosy polo-neck, with sex education represented only by a selection of flavoured condoms, remains to be seen. From July 2.

Adult preoccupations with passion and fidelity are wittily explored in The Real Thing at the Donmar, a revival of Tom Stoppard's 1982 play with Jennifer Ehle and Stephen Dillane excellent as the actress and playwright whose extramarital affair becomes a marriage with all the usual problems. There is added spice in that the script refers to and encompasses scenes from other plays, some invented, some classics. Where does reality begin and end? Ultimately, each of us has to acknowledge that we can never really know another person and any relationship is a leap of faith. The script is as acerbic, funny and sometimes cruel as you would expect. Tickets: 0171 369 1732 Money is never far down the list of priorities for any arts organisation, but London Education Arts Partnership (LEAP) has learned to be more businesslike than most. This week saw the establishment of LEAP Ltd, with membership made up of the London boroughs of Bromley, Enfield, Greenwich, Hackney, Redbridge and Middlesex University. Barnet, Camden, Hounslow, Tower Hamlets and the City of Westminster are expected to join later in the year.

Since the inception of LEAP under the aegis of the London Arts Board in 1996, hundreds of young people have taken part in borough-based arts initiatives. The new agency aims to promote arts education further, to provide training and professional development for artists, teachers and youth workers and to share good practice. The new LEAP website ( is a resource for teachers where they can also find information about future initiatives, including next spring's "Context 2000" conference. Tel: 0171 670 2424 Occasionally, you see something you want to shout about. So listen up! If you can possibly take students to The Merchant of Venice at the National Theatre, hurry to the Cottesloe. Set in twenties Venice with hints of Vienna and Berlin, Trevor Nunn's production is the subtlest and most moving I have ever seen. Shylock (Henry Goodman) and his daughter Jessica (Gabrielle Jourdan) establish a relationship which is intense but troubled and they share a passionate commitment to their religion indicated by singing and speaking in Hebrew. Shylock is neither sentimentalised nor made into a monster. He's bitter and a harsh father, but when Portia triumphs he looks relieved that he doesn't have to carry out the bond. She for her part clearly finds a solution on the spur of the moment, horrified by the thought of what might happen next. And that is the level of tension experienced by the audience too. Excellent. Tickets: 0171 452 3000

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