OnOff Stage

17th March 1995 at 00:00
Brilliant in concept, massive in scope: Manchester LEA's response to the 50th anniversary of VE day is a cross-arts, cross-curricular school project on The Nature of Tyranny.

More than 1,000 children and young people from 24 primary and secondary schools and colleges in Greater Manchester have been working on themes of tyranny using selected texts since last October. They have explored a range of literature, including Richard III, Medea, the war poets and George Orwell's 1984 and devised drama, music and movement pieces, as well as creating artwork, based on their interpretations of the texts.

Among the issues they have been exploring in the workshops is the role of women in wartime, looking at women poets in World War One, women in Shakespeare and Lysistrata and they have developed a music and movement interpretation of Richard III by ten-year-old primary children. The 24 performance pieces under the guidance of LEA advisers are being showcased at an Arts Education Festival at the Contact Theatre until March 24. Drama adviser Peter Wilkinson says: "For a lot of these primary children, there wouldn't have been a hope in hell of dealing with these texts. But through the arts, they were able to learn them overnight. Kids who normally truant from school were attending 100 per cent." For more information about the Nature of Tyranny festival, ring Contact Theatre on 0161 274 4400.

A smaller scale festival at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, London, from March 28 to April 2 gives primary, secondary and sixth form students a stage on which to perform devised drama, music and dance pieces. Included in the Young Voices Week programme are local schools putting on their own shows using extracts from modern and classic texts, a concert, and plays written by members of the Theatre Royal's young writers' project about life in the East End and performed by local students on a BTEC dramatic arts course.

Also coming up at the Theatre Royal: a new youth theatre group for 12 to 16 year-olds and the second part of Think Positive, an HIVAids awareness project on CD Rom. TRSE is one of the few theatres in the capital to have received an increase in its grant from the London Arts Board. For details of Young Voices Week and other activities in the education department's programme, ring education co-ordinator Rob West on 081 519 7842.

Beyond Naturalism: New Languages for Theatre is a training conference for BTEC and A-level performing arts lecturers and teachers being run jointly by Kingsway College and the Royal Court on April 28 and 29. It will explore the work of playwrights and theatre companies using innovative methods to stretch the boundaries of dramatic form.

Practical workshops will be led by award winning playwright Phyllis Nagy and theatre companies including IOU, one of our longest established experimental theatre groups, and Moto Roti, which is concerned with the cultural perspective of black communities in Britain. Stephen Daldry, artistic director of the Royal Court, is opening the conference which takes place at the Holborn Centre for the Performing Arts. For details, ring conference administration on 0171 306 5827.

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