25th May 2001 at 01:00
Survival in the Robinson Crusoe manner, loyalty, friendship, teenage rebellion - these are some of the themes in Michael Morpurgo's charming story, Kensuke's Kingdom, adapted for the stage by Vicky Ireland.

Children aged eight and above sit enthralled as the story of ship-wrecked Michael unfolds on the stage of the Polka Theatre in Wimbledon. Separated in a tropical storm from his parents (who have turned redundancy into adventure by sailing around the world), Michael finds himself apparently alone on a tropical island with his dog, Stella (short for Stella Artois). As if by magic, food and water appear. Michael scrawls "Thank you" in the sand, and eventually meets the other inhabitant of the island, an old man called Kensuke.

Although he continues to help Michael and Stella, Kensuke makes it plain that he doesn't want to have his life disrupted until, one day, Michael refuses to take his advice and swims from a particular beach. Badly stung by jellyfish, he is rescued by Kensuke who, it seems, was once a doctor. The two become friends. Kensuke was serving in the Japanese army, he tells Michael, when he heard about the atom bomb being dropped on his home town, Nagasaki, and assuming his wife and son to be dead, he stayed in exile.

The growing understanding between the boy and the old man is touchingly portrayed by David Cooper and Eiji Kusuhara, and Krishna Kumari-Bowles makes an endearingly lop-eared dog. The design is outstanding. Kimie Nakano uses simple shapes but complicated lighting and sound cues to conjure the deck of a boat and the island in its various moods, and there is a "real" rain storm and a runnel of water which suggests the edge of the sea.

In David K S Tse's production, Kensuke's Kingdom demonstrates the power of theatre. Children have to, and do, use their imagination to enter into the story. The programme is full of ideas and there's a chance to enter a haiku competition. Tickets: 020 8543 4888.

Sir John Tavener's music may have become familiar to many more millions during the televising of the Princess of Wales's funeral service in 1997, but he has for a long time been a popular contemporary composer. Last week, Brighton Youth Orchestra had the honour of premiering his new, other-worldly piece, Ekstasis, in the presence of the composer at St Bartholomew's church, Brighton.

Tavener's ability to suggest a cosmic scale, and the influence on his work of Russian Orthodox church music, provided the ever-ambitious BYO with a challenge they enjoyed meeting. Britain's oldest youth orchestra, it is riding high, having recently toured Hong Kong and taken part in the award-winning Glyndebourne education production of the opera Zoe, televised by Channel 4 last December. BYO information: 01273 643450.

Young musicians about to get a major break are four woodwind players who hae been chosen from 200 applicants aged 14 to 22 to take part in a free concert with the London Symphony Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall on June 12. Of those who auditioned in the first round of the Shell LSO Music Scholarship 2001, 100 players were offered masterclasses with LSO principals, and 100 were selected for the regional finals in April. Twenty players went on to the semi-finals and, of these, four, aged between 14 and 22, will play with the LSO and compete for medals and cash prizes.

Members of the audience at the June concert will receive free copies of a CD-Rom of Britten'sA Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, performed by the LSO under the conductor Michael Tilson Thomas. Notes on the work are included, with some orchestra members' comments. A further 20,000 copies will be distributed free to people on the LSO mailing list. LSO: 020 7588 1116. Tickets: 020 7960 4242.

Young people with an eye on the theatre as a career should hurry to the Haymarket Theatre in London for a series of Opening Doors Masterclasses next month. This is a spin-off from the extremely popular series of Haymarket Masterclasses led by top-flight theatre practitioners for young audiences. Free sessions on writing (June 5), on technical and design matters (June 7), musical theatre (June 12) and acting (June 14) will be led by some outstanding talents. Information: 020 7930 8890; Merseyside's Writing on the Wall Festival promises to provide plenty of opportunities for aspiring writers. The main festival programme, between June 19 and 24, will focus on social justice, crime, humour and docu-drama. The schools and community programme, which kicks off before the main events, offers workshops on lyric writing, writing on the web, scriptwriting and sessions on diverse topics from Anne Frank to joy-riding to the lives of Afro-Americans. There is also a children's scriptwriting competition run with BBC Radio Merseyside and Women's Independent Cinema House. A schools showcase is scheduled for June 23. Information about WOW 2001: 0151 231 5133; School life has a starring role in an exhibition of photographs at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Prize-winning entries in the TESScran competition for young photographers may be seen in a special display outside the Canon Photography Gallery between May 30 and June 14, as well as on the Scran website at This is part of a larger, more ambitious plan to "digitise and preserve human history and material culture". The Scran website is a resource for schools, colleges and individuals, providing them with access to treasures in museums, galleries and archive collections. More than half a million pages of photographs, movies and objects are now available free to searchers.

Heather Neill.

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