OnOff Stage

3rd March 1995 at 00:00
If the little green women with the antennae sticking out of their heads were to land their spaceships on earth today and rummage through my postbag, they could very well get the impression that a subject called Shakespeare was the only thing pupils studied in a peculiar contrivance called the national curriculum.

According to some earthlings of my acquaintance, they wouldn't be far wrong. Anyway, for terrestrial teachers who are indeed wrapped up, swept away or just plain bogged down with Shakespeare, there is no shortage of down-to-earth workshops to help them. A day conference run by the National Theatre on March 18 offers teachers in schools and further and higher education seminars, practical sessions, workshops and a performance of the touring production of The Tempest. Alongside Toby Jones of Theatre de Complicite leading a workshop on Shakespeare and Physical Theatre, and composer Gary Yershon of the National and Royal Shakespeare Company talking about Music in Shakespeare, editors of the New Arden Shakespeare will discuss editing the texts for performance.

Other experts will be on hand, too, to help cover an awful lot of territory in nine hours. The conference is being held at the Roehampton Institute in south west London. Enquiries: 0181 392 3230. Bookings: 0171 928 2252.

Up in the north east, the West Yorkshire Playhouse and Leeds Education Authority are doing their bit to confirm the worst suspicions of our interplanetary guests. Teaching Shakespeare, on March 24 and 25, is being presented by an interesting partnership of directors including Prunella Scales, Neil Bartlett, Barrie Rutter and Jude Kelly together with educationalists. Also at the Playhouse: a two day conference on Arts for the Under Fives: Working Towards a National Policy, on March 31 and April 1. The aim is to provide a forum for parents, playgroup leaders, arts practitioners, nursery and reception advisers and others to cut through the political rhetoric surrounding nursery education to look at what form that education should take and the important part that the arts should be playing in it. For details and bookings for both events, contact conference co-ordinator Bethan Bligh on 0113 244 2141.

But don't think I've finished with Shakespeare yet. At the Bridewell, the Victorian swimming pool in the City of London recently converted into a theatre, artistic director Carol Metcalfe directs A Midsummer Night's Dream, using a circus format. For information about schools matinees, ring 071 353 0259. Bookings on 071 936 3456. The play runs until the end of March at the Bridewell Theatre, Bride Lane, Fleet Street, London EC4.

Not exactly Shakespeare, but not exactly not Shakespeare is If We Shadows, the Young Vic's presentation of Insomniac Productions' play which is both a version of A Midsummer Night's Dream and a play about it. Conceived and directed by Pete Brooks, it's a contemporary story of a haunted house in which the ghost is Shakespeare's play. Suitable for GCSE students and upwards, it runs from March 7 to 25. Bookings on 071 928 6363.

Wolsey Theatre in association with Cambridge Theatre Company present the world premiere of Philip Osment's What I Did in the Holidays from March 7 to 18. Set in Devon in the '60s, it's about an 11-year-old boy set to start grammar school. For details and bookings, ring 01473 253 725.

And finally . . . not for the faint-hearted drama teacher, pupil or parents in the audience: step right up for the amazingly ambitious Woodkirk High School play, the circus musical Barnum. A cast of 40 Wakefield students will have their audience oohing and aahing and no doubt biting their nails up to their elbows.

To ensure the safety of the performers, who are national level gymnasts and baton twirlers, local engineering firms have been called in to help with the design, construction and maintenance of the high wire. The show runs from March 20 to 25. To buy tickets, contact the school on 0113 253 3930.

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