OnOff stage

15th March 1996 at 00:00
One of the daftest news stories has to be the one about three-year-old Morris Mitchener being taken to see Peter Pan, and his parents suing West Yorkshire Playhouse for compensation after he was scared out of his wits.

First, who ever called Peter Pan a "wonderful fairy story", as quaking Morris's granny put it? It's one of the most haunting, disturbing stories in the children's repertoire. It is more than passingly odd that parents who are so concerned about their son's psyche should have sat for three- quarters of an hour as he cowered under his seat wailing.

The whole mess is prompting West Yorkshire Playhouse to review its age guidelines, which were unfortunately not applied in the promotional material for the play. But the incident raises questions about parents taking the responsiblity to think for themselves about the suitability of productions, which includes making enquiries if they plan to bring a young or nervous child, or one who has never been to the theatre before.

Another shock, but of the good variety this time. The actors' union Equity has buried the hatchet with the Belgrade Theatre Coventry after a two-month dispute over closure of the Theatre in Education company. Under a new agreement, Pounds 31,000 is to come from the existing theatre budget to fund TIE work for this financial year, which will include schools tours, a TIE show and workshops complementing main house productions.

In addition, joint funding from the Equity Trust Fund and the Belgrade will go towards the creation of a full-time head of education development. From September, a six-month contract will be awarded to four full-time artists in education. This would take them up to March 1997.

David Oddie, who founded the Plymouth-based Rent a Role 15 years ago, is leaving to get a new theatre in education project off the ground. Under his direction the Barefoot Project will be a national touring TIE company, drawing on the expertise and range of work developed in Plymouth.

Riddle: What does Shakespeare have to do with Tesco? No, the Bard didn't get inspiration wheeling his trolley up and down aisles of cat food and baked beans. But Tesco is sponsoring "Elizabethan Fairs", the Shakespeare Globe's annual project involving 18 Southwark schools. The Globe's education department is co-ordinating the pupils, who are composing Elizabethan music, choreographing dances, rehearsing scenes, baking food and juggling and tumbling as part of the history syllabus. Globe Education actors will perform the country fair scene from A Winter's Tale and the children will perform acts they have devised themselves.

Shoppers at Southwark Tesco stores will be able to read all about it in special newspapers on Shakespeare's birthday, April 23. For information, telephone Alastair Tallon at Globe Education: 0171 620 0202.

Theatre in the Downs is touring Hodge, a play about Victorian rural life in Wiltshire, to schools and community venues until the end of term. The title belongs to an agricultural labourer who joins a farmworkers' union and is based on real events. For information, telephone: 01249 654070.

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