Something a wee bit different at the Edinburgh Festival this year is Greenock Central, probably as raw and gritty a show as you're likely to see. Cat A Theatre Company, which has produced it, has nothing to do with those furry things that sit on your lap. Its name refers to prisoners who warrant top security treatment, which is rather appropriate considering that the actors are from the NCH Action for Children's Inverclyde Intensive Probation Unit.
The Unit provides an alternative to conventional custody for young offenders aged 16 to 21 by challenging them, largely through drama work, to confront their behaviour. The play, written collaboratively by the cast and writer John Maley, is about the behaviour that has led to the young people being in the Unit: petty crime, drug abuse, drinking and gambling. It's also about their dreams of escaping. Not so much high culture as high security, it promises to be a very different Festival offering. Catch it from August 26 to 30 at 3.15pm at The Famous Grouse House in Chambers Street (Venue 34).
And now for something well and truly different. The Polka Theatre in Wimbledon is running its summer school throughout August. Led by professional workskhop leaders, children aged five to sevem (August 20-24) and eight to 12 (August 27-31) are invited to join in multi-arts programmes in which they sing, act and make props and costumes. Both week-long sessions culminate in a performance on the Polka's main stage. For further information, ring The Polka on 0181 543 3741.
Do you like nature? art? picnics? If you're an ordinary sort of human being and have ticked at least one, you might like to go for a two mile family walk through the rugged Pennine woodland around Holme Styes Reservoir near Holmfirth, near Huddersfield on August 25. Along with interactive trail activities, wildlife, live music and habitat spotting guides, you'll be treated to the sight of Impossible Theatre's sculptural installations of weird and wonderful scarecrows constructed from found and recycled materials. Impossible promises that it will be a sensual and exciting day out. Bring rain gear if your idea of sensuality doesn't run to getting a right old soaking, just in case. The trail starts at 11.30am. For more information, ring Impossible Theatre on 01484 681262.
The Patchwork Quilt is a report on a cross-phase educational drama project that evolved over a number of years for top junior and early secondary school children in Cambridgeshire.
Written by Paul Bunyan and John Rainer and published by the National Association for the Teaching of English (NATE), it arose from, as the authors put it, "the need to build reflective action into flexible narrative, culminating naturally in theatrical expression of the 'journey' involved". Its subject matter is the history of black people in this country, but its scope - using the vehicle of fitting together pieces of a patchwork quilt - can be widened to many other contexts. While the booklet documents the project, it also offers a template to other teachers and comes with a useful resource list. The Patchwork Quilt is available from NATE Pounds 4.50 to members and Pounds 5.50 to non-members. To order, ring 0114 255 5419.