Marian Michaels, Stockton
A Undoubtedly the two most venerable, and venerated, organisations in the business of youthful thespy activity are the National Youth Theatre (020-7281 3863; www.nyt.org.uk) and the National Youth Music Theatre (www.nymt.org.uk). Both have played alma mater to any number of Britain's finest actors and actresses, and both have been running summer workshop courses for years. However, neither currently offers residential courses. Both are based in London and the NYT only accepts children after they have passed an audition. Having said that, a two-week NYT summer "senior course" for 16- to 21-year-olds is a wonderful experience for a young would-be actor, and perhaps something to aim for in the future.
In the meantime, a relative newcomer on the same scene is Youth Music Theatre: UK (0870 240 5057; www.youth-music-theatre.org.uk), which was formed two years ago by a group of former NYMT staff-members. Happily, there is no need to audition for its summer courses, so as long as you book soon your son is guaranteed a place - though he'll need to enjoy musicals as much as he does straight drama. The cost is £325 including full-board accommodation and all activities.
YMT's week-long residential "studios" are based at university campuses or boarding schools in Bath, Tonbridge, York, Ashford and Wolverhampton. In each case, a professional musical-theatre director, a choreographer and a composer works with a group of teenagers (the minimum age is 11) to create an entirely new and original piece of theatre. Participants spend long, hard-working days - 9am-9pm, with tea and meal breaks - being encouraged to improvise, write lyrics, and explore their own experiences, as well as learning about movement, acting and "the voice", as they call it in the trade. Depending on the specific interests of the course leaders, they may also experiment with clowning, puppetry, stage-fighting or circus skills. Each week includes a cabaret night, where campers take it in turns to entertain their cohorts, and end-of-week shows are open to - cue applause - family and friends. Shows utilise an astonishingly eclectic range of styles: hip-hop horror comedy, anyone?
Keeping a song in your hearts, you could also consider one of the annual Beauchamp House international music and drama courses in Churcham, Gloucester (01452 750253; www.beauchamphouse. org.uk). Beauchamp House is an educational charity that runs courses for both adults and children over nine. It mainly concentrates on orchestral, jazz and classical music, although from 14-21 August it is running a music theatre workshop with a 1950s theme, which means having some fun with rock'n'roll musicals such as Grease, Buddy et al. The setting is a rather lovely old house, which has its own self-contained music-block known as The Dairy, along with a purpose-built concert hall/theatre called The Barn. Participants camp in an adjoining field (bring your own tent or caravan) patrolled by House staff at night, and the cost of £225 includes all food, six hours of theatricals a day, and afternoon trips to places such as Gloucester Docks or walks in the Forest of Dean.
Should your son prefer to mingle am-dram with other activities, summer camp specialist PGL (0870 050 7507; www.pgl.co.uk) runs a six-day acting and drama course at its Marchants Hill base in Surrey. He'll share chalet-dorm space with other 13- to 16-year-olds, with whom he'll spend four days learning about character development, improvisation and movement at the same time as producing and developing a show. Day five is spent on his choice of outdoorsy stuff - climbing, archery, forest trails and so on - while day six involves a trip to London to watch the professionals at work in a West End matinée. The cost is £373 and includes accommodation, activities and meals.
If you're willing to accompany your son, you might want to consider travelling to London for the eighth annual Kids Week in the capital's Theatreland (0870 400 0800; www.kidsweek.co.uk). It should more accurately be called kids' fortnight, as from 19 August to 2 September any number of West End shows allow one child in free with every full-price-paying adult.
Even more tempting are the many free backstage tours and children's theatre workshops that a Kids Week ticket gives you access to: your son could try everything from an actor-run "devise and perform" workshop at the Old Vic (24 August; booking 020-7981 0982), to making a "play in a day" at the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn (19 August; booking opens 8 August on 020-7328 1000).
Participants are entitled to discounted parking, and may be entitled to free child places and rail travel if they book accommodation with Superbreak (0870 043 7633) - check the Kids Week website for full details of all the discounts that are available.
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