House (five)

The Strangest Village In Britain (C4)

DR Greg House's bedside manner leaves a lot to be desired. His rude, insensitive behaviour makes Dr Crippen look like Mother Theresa. He's even reluctant to see patients at the walk-in clinic, fearing he'll be assigned a kid with a runny nose.

"I'll spend 30 seconds on the nose and 25 minutes talking to the worried mom who won't leave until she's sure it's not meningitis or a tumour," he says.

Nine times out of ten, he informs a colleague, there's no reason to talk to a patient. They should consider this a blessing considering the abuse he heaps on sick people.

The surprise in the hit US series House, is that he's played by Hugh Laurie, who's always seemed such a nice, affable British bloke in the past. Here he has an American accent and, while his medical skills are excellent, his approach is objectionable.

Still, it's good to see an actor cast in something you don't expect - unlike British TV series which use the same people over and over again, leaving you with the impression there are only a dozen or so actors in the country.

Odd things are happening too in a village high on the Yorkshire Moors, hence the title, The Strangest Village In Britain, of the final documentary in the Only Human series.

For half a century, 300 people have lived in the village of Botton. Nearly half of them have learning difficulties, autism or Downs Syndrome. They live with and alongside volunteers, known as co-workers, and their families. They don't so much care for the residents as try to ensure they live as independent a life as possible.

The film crew spent six months following the daily routine in this unique community. The result left you wondering what the village hoped to get out of exposing "this little-known social experiment" to a wide audience.

The behaviour of residents, resulting from their various worries and phobias, led you into a very surreal world. Some people would probably accuse me of bad taste, or being as insensitive as Dr House, if I noted that the odd manner of some residents wouldn't have been out of place among the characters in Little Britain.

There was Katie, whose daily mile-long walk to work proved a real trial because of her acute fear of slipping. The narrator noted that the journey "can take quite a while" as she clung to a companion for dear life, talking incessantly about her worries of falling. In the woodwork shop, there was a running feud between workers over such matters as putting a coat on a peg.

One resident, Barry, attempted to leave the community and live in nearby Whitby. You wondered if life alone in a bedsit, for all the independence it gave him, would make him any happier or fulfilled than staying in Botton, surrounded by people who cared.

The Little Mermaid, The Studio, York Theatre Royal

I HESITATE to describe Mike Kenny's adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen story as ideal entertainment for children for the simple reason that the adults in the audience enjoyed it just as much.

While not stinting on the magic, humour and playfulness to keep younger audiences enthralled, the production is intelligent enough to ensure that mums, dads and even hard-hearted critics are entertained as well.

The audience of schoolchildren at the press performance were totally gripped - laughing, being amazed and recoiling in horror in equal measure.

Karen Tennent's design decks out The Studio in suitably watery and fishy style, while Asha Kahlon's direction neatly switches from knockabout humour to romance and then to nasty happenings with confidence. Like all good fairy stories, The Little Mermaid is pretty grim in places.

Lisa Howard and Robin Simpson are Flotsam and Jetsam, the narrators of the story about the mermaid who's drowning in love for a handsome prince.

The fishy heroine does a deal with the Seawitch to win the royal. She becomes human by having her tail replaced by legs, but there's a catch. In exchange, the mermaid has her tongue cut out and every step she takes is like treading on pointed needles and sharp knives.

Howard and Simpson are both first rate as they act out all the characters, never forgetting the young audience but ensuring they embrace them in the action at all times.

l Until July 2. Tickets (01904) 623568.

Steve Pratt

See Shakespeare

for a snip

THE Northern Echo has teamed up with the Crimdon Dreams Festival to bring readers an exclusive two-for-one ticket offer for Shakespeare's best-loved comedy.

Five 'promenade' performances of A Midsummer Night's Dream by CTC Theatre and Mad Alice Theatre Co are being held in Crimdon Dene as part of the celebrations to mark the end of a £700,000, 18 month regeneration project at the former seaside resort.

The play is set in Crimdon Dene in summer 1905 and sold out when it was first performed in Blackhill Park, Consett, last summer. Northern Echo readers can get two tickets for any performance for just £5 (£3 concessions).

Performances will take place every evening from Wednesday to Sunday, June 26, starting at 7.30pm. Seats are limited, so to take advantage of this special offer, simply call the Crimdon Dreams box office at the Peterlee Information Centre on 0191-586 4450 and quote the reference "Northern Echo offer."