THEATRE / On theatre

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Where can you see a Shakespeare play with an entire army on stage? Massive ensemble casts are part of what has made the National Youth Theatre famous, but over the past seven years, director Ed Wilson has been turning the company around.

'It's essential that we do productions that the public wants to see. There's no point in just being worthy. There's an educational aspect to our work which means that we can't do a Robert Lepage version of a text, but Matthew Warchus directed a remarkable Coriolanus for us at the Tramway in Glasgow and at the Bloomsbury. There's a much greater emphasis on production these days.'

Three thousand hopefuls aged between 14 and 21 are auditioned every year to take part in a summer-long series of workshops. About 175 people are chosen to take part, and they are then eligible to audition for the major productions. Although hardly most people's idea of 'youth theatre, experimental company Lumiere and Son's workshops last year were so successful that the project, Heart of Ice (right), has become one of the NYT's shows this year, along with Macbeth, which opens at the Bloomsbury next month.

The third show is one of Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop hits, Oh] What a Lovely War, also at the Bloomsbury. Bad productions of this can degenerate into competitions amongst the cast for 'Best Wounded Make-up After a Fast Costume Change. All three shows from this revitalised company will certainly be offering something far stronger than that.

'Heart of Ice' is at BAC Tue-Sat 8pm, Sun 6pm, to 28 Aug (071-223 2223) pounds 8.50/pounds 6.

Bloomsbury Theatre: 071-388 8822

(Photograph omitted)

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