Artbeat: weekly arts diary

8th June 2001 at 01:00

How exactly do you describe a "bronco"? Even playwright Douglas Maxwell finds it a bit of a problem - and he's an expert, as is clear from his play touring children's parks this summer, Decky does a Bronco . You stand on a swing, "worky" it up until it's level with the bar, then jump off and send it whizzing and clattering around the bar above you while you simultaneously leap clear.

Douglas Maxwell is only 26 and he was an ace broncoer when he was nine. He's also quite a practised playwright these days, having written more than 20. "But only four are good ones," he says, modestly. Decky is certainly "good". It was first produced by Grid Iron theatre at the Edinburgh Festival last year, and is now touring swing parks in a revival directed by Ben Harrison in collaboration with the Almeida Theatre in London.

Until tomorrow, Decky is in Whitworth Park, Manchester (0161 274 0600), and next week at Nunsmoor Park, Fenham, Newcastle-upon-Tyne (0191 230 5151), followed by weeks at Coram's Fields in London WC1 (0207 359 4404), Florence Park, Oxford (01865 798600), the University of
Bath (01225 448844), and the Gardner Arts Centre, Brighton (01273 685861).

The Almeida in London is presenting a play which thoughtful sixth-formers will love. Neil LaBute is a sharp, young American writer whose The Shape of Things locks straight into the debate about the subjectivity, even self-advertisement, of some contemporary art. But it is also about trust and betrayal.nbsp;An excellent introduction to theatre for the screen-sated generation. Tickets: 020 7359 4404.

The Royal Academy's Summer Exhibition is traditionally democratic, with an opportunity for as-yet-unknown painters to have their work shown in a major gallery. There is so much to see and of such variety that it would take several visits to do the exhibition justice, but most people will probably make straight for Peter Blake's controversial juxtaposition of pieces by stars old and new, from Bridget Riley (Technicolor op-art) to Damien Hirst (a pastel spot painting) and Tracey Emin (her autobiographically embroidered armchair), with contributions by and of stars of another kind. For information about the exhibition and associated events: 020 7300 8000,

Opera North is reaching out to new audiences with its chamber production of Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel . This is the first foray into opera by director Tim Supple, whose productions, at the Young Vic and elsewhere, such as Grimm Tales and The Comedy of Errors , have proved popular with young people. In each venue - in Leeds, Whitley Bay, Preston, The Lowry in Salford, Newark, Huddersfield and York - a group of children will provide the children's chorus. Information: 0113 2445326.


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