Q. My 14-year-old granddaughter is interested in pursuing a career in stage and costume design. I would like to take her to London for a few days during February half-term, as I know that there are some organised backstage tours at the Royal Opera House. Is there a theatre museum, and do you know if any other theatres offer tours?
J Greer, via e-mail
A. As you point out, the Royal Opera House (020-7304 4000; www.royalopera.org) in Covent Garden offers behind-the-scenes tours of the theatre. These take place daily, except Sunday, at 10.30am, 12.30pm and 2.30pm and last around an hour and a half. Tickets cost £8 (£7 concessions).
Your next stop should be the Theatre Museum (020-7943 4700; http://theatremuseum.vam.ac.uk). Also in Covent Garden, it's open daily except Mondays, from 10am to 6pm, and general entrance is free. The museum displays costumes and backdrops as well as the design collections of the Arts Council and British Council. It also offers study workshops (£4 to £10 per person), focussing on more specific topics, but unfortunately does not currently offer anything relating to costume design.
In the same area, the Theatre Royal (0870 899 3338; www.rutheatres.com), Drury Lane on Catherine Street, runs "Through the Stage Door" backstage tours. Tickets cost £8.50 and the tour takes about an hour.
The National Theatre (020-7452 3400; www.nationaltheatre.org.uk), on the South Bank also offers extremely informative backstage tours. They run every day except Sundays and cost £5 per adult and £4.25 for students.
Another good destination for inspiration is the Victoria & Albert Museum on Cromwell Road in Kensington, which has a permanent display of dresses and textiles, from the 17th century to the present day. Entrance is free (020-7942 2000; www.vam.ac.uk).
If your granddaughter enjoys this, it's worth considering a trip to the Museum of Costume (01225 4777 52, www.museumofcostume.co.uk) in Bath's Assembly Rooms. As well as seeing 30,000 items from the 16th century to the present day, you can also reserve a study table tolook at books on fashion history.
Your granddaughter might enjoy a theatre-based activity trip. PGL (08700 507507, www.pgl.co.uk) runs one-week drama holidays for 13 to 16-year-olds, where teenagers can take part in the various aspects of productions, including costume design. These take place during the summer holidays in Surrey, and cost £359 per person including accommodation, food and all activities.
Then there's Stratford, Warwickshire, home to the Royal Shakespeare Company (01789 403404; www.rsc.org.uk). Backstage tours, take place at 1.30pm (11.30am on matinée days) and 5.30pm, Monday to Saturday and at 12pm, 1pm, 2pm and 3pm on Sundays, and cost £4 for adults or £3 for children. The RSC also offers day schools; these start with a practical workshop followed by a matinée performance, finishing with a discussion with the cast. The one most relevant to your granddaughter is "Designing Shakespeare - Hamlet", which looks at how to create a visual world on stage using set and costume design. This is scheduled to take place on 4 September, and costs £30 per student.
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