14 Alone (C4)

FOURTEEN is a funny age. "I feel like a grown-up because I don't feel like a child any more," explained one of the ten 14-year-olds taking part in this experiment.

The aim was to see if they were mature enough to live together peacefully. If the answer had been yes, there would've been no programme, or a very boring one. What emerged was a mixed sex version of Lord Of The Flies as the ten spent five days in a house with no TV, music or books.

They had to create their own entertainment. This ranged from flirting and hanging a teddy bear from the banisters to food fights and a game of cards using herbal tea bags.

In case you were worried, we were assured their parents could monitor their every move on TV at the back of the house, and medical help and a psychological counsellor were available.

They could also leave at any time they wanted, although only one packed his bags and threatened to leave, only to return after visiting the psychologist.

Most of what you expected happened. The boys chatted up the girls. The quiet one became a right little hooligan. One girl spent all her time washing up. Cliques were formed. Friends turned on one another.

The most shocking thing was not the extreme emotions or petty bitching, but the lack of respect for property. They were "decorating" the walls with graffiti as soon as they set foot through the front door. Acts of vandalism continued throughout their stay. Beds were deliberately jumped on and broken. The boys trashed the living room. The house came to resemble a war zone, with debris and food everywhere.

The most dramatic flare-up occurred towards the end of the stay, when lack of sleep and boredom took their toll. Callum found offensive Greta's remark about his electrician dad. His tears gave way to revenge as he squirted ketchup and other substances on her bed.

Things were clearly getting out of hand, forcing the producers to separate the sexes for the rest of the evening.

The ten managed to survive without killing each other, although the boys might be embarrassed when they hear what the girls said about their personalities and looks.

Lessons were learnt, namely that perhaps parents aren't so bad after all. By the end of their "imprisonment" involving exhaustion, bad food and high drama, the teenagers were desperate to get back to rules and the comfort of home.

RSC Richard III, Newcastle Theatre Royal

ALASTAIR Campbell didn't invent spin. William Shakespeare wrote this account of the last Plantaganet king with one thing in mind: to please his patron, Tudor monarch Queen Elizabeth I.

Thus Shakespeare's Richard is a heartless, deformed son of the House of York, eager to take the throne of England and willing to remove anyone who stands in his way.

Henry Goodman's performance as Richard is a joy, reeling the audience in with his self-mocking, sardonic humour and then repelling them with his cynical disregard for human life. His physical appearance is unprepossessing to say the least; Goodman's awkward gait must wreak havoc with his hip and knee joints. Add to this what used to be called a 'port-wine stain' covering one side of his face, and you can see why Lady Anne doesn't really fancy him, especially since he's just killed her husband.

During an intense exchange between Richard and members of his family, the computerised lighting system threw a wobbly and began rattling and casting coloured light onto the stage. "Methinks," remarked Goodman with a sideways glance at the spotlight, "The heavens do mock us."

A particular mention for the young lad who plays Richard's page and who is on stage for much of the evening. Whether it was David Jowett or Jack Snell on this occasion, I don't know, but he was impressive.

It's the RSC, so the acting is faultless. Performed on a dark and moody stage set with numerous trapdoors through which murderers creep and victims are dropped, the play makes for a rewarding and absorbing evening.

Sue Heath

* Runs until Saturday. Booking Office: 0870 905 5060

Published: ??/??/2003