london arts season

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The Independent Culture
I once spent an afternoon with a group of elderly American tourists who were holidaying for a week at the National Theatre: backstage tours, matinees, lectures, that sort of thing. It was an exhausting experience. Not the afternoon's activity, yo u understand, just listening to couples planning all the shows they would fit in ("We went to Les Miserables last night - wonderful - and after lunch we'll go to the new Arthur Miller...I didn't much care for his last one, but you have to see them, don't y

ou?").More energy than Sizewells A and B put together.

You might get the same feeling of inadequacy browsing through the brochure for the London Arts Season, which opens this week and runs for the next two months. It promotes almost every cultural event taking place in the capital (250+) - from the major newmusic, opera and dance seasons to ongoing plays, musicals and exhibitions - by offering a wide range of discounts and exclusive viewings.

Although lumping it all together may appeal more to the smash hit-and-grab mentality of the fanatical visitor (the first season last year brought in an estimated £18m), Londoners should not conclude that it's all Dickens London tours and evenings at MissSaigon. It's worth considering the little extras: trips to the Globe Theatre; behind-the-scenes peeks at 10 major art venues; after-hours explorations of the V&A; private views of Poussin and Odilon Redon at the RA; pre-performance interviews with Yehudi Menuhin and Vladimir Ashkenazy; and, if that doesn't grab you, hey - a chance to meet the cast of Cats.

If you were counting on spending the next two months hibernating in a museum or eating out, at least you can save money with the London White Card and the London Arts Card. But you should wake up to the fact that the London Arts Season is here to stay and it's up to you to make sure that it's more than just one big coach party.

London Arts Info Line (071-839 6181)