OnOff Stage

21st July 1995 at 01:00
An incredibly shrinking programme or simply small and perfectly formed? The official word is the latter. The National Youth Theatre's forthcoming season consists of only two productions instead of its usual minimum of three and both are being presented at the Bloomsbury Theatre instead of its usual mixture of London venues.

Pippin is this year's musical. Not exactly a household name, it was apparently a Broadway hit in 1972, picking up five Tonys and running for nearly 2, 000 performances. It runs from August 23 to September 2 and is followed by Othello (September 13 to 23). Both shows are directed by Edward Wilson, the NYT's artistic director, who insists there is nothing sinister behind the truncated programme.

There is, apparently, a possible television production in the offing, which means a diversion of time, energy and people. But he does admit that the rising costs of student housing and the hardships imposed by reduced grants has had an impact. Students from around the country come to London for the summer season, which means travel, accommodation and subsistence expenses that some simply cannot meet. "We're having to raise money from bursaries to help students in financial hardship now more than ever before," says Wilson. "We're very concerned not to exclude anybody because they can't afford it." Sainsbury's, the NYT's former sponsor, still maintains an annual Pounds 10,000 bursary fund, which is added to by other benefactors, to help students.

As part of the RSC's Tongues on Fire Festival at the Young Vic, Whose Text is it Anyway? on Sunday at 11 am is billed as a debate chaired by Wendy Greenhill, the RSC's head of education, and involving Michael Marland, headteacher at North Westminster Community School and other educationalists on the teaching of Shakespeare in multicultural Britain.

Another compelling-sounding event in this interesting festival is Young Tongues, which brings together young people from across London, writer Jenny McLeod and members of the RSC. They will present scenes and debate themes on nationalism and culture as presented in David Edgar's Pentecost, currently running at the Young Vic. Young Tongues Parts One and Two take place at the Young Vic, The Cut, SE1 on July 24 and 29 at 10.30am and are free. Further details on the rest of the festival on 0171 928 6363.

The youngest star in Hackney must be 10-year-old Lucas Rush from De Beauvoir Primary School who has landed the part of Gavroche in Les Miserables at the Palace Theatre. The role involves a solo song and, says proud Hackney Council in a press release, "a very impressive death scene." Lucas competed for the part against children who had years of coaching at specialist stage schools.

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