THE opening performances of the world's largest youth theatre celebration are being staged in the region.

Newcastle's Theatre Royal will host the first performances of Shell Connections, from March 28 to 30.

This year's programme involves 200 groups from across the UK, Ireland and overseas.

The portfolio of ten works being premiered at the theatre has been devised by renowned contemporary writers such as Sarah Daniels, David Farr, Mark Ravenhill, and Philip Ridley.

Among those performing are groups from Stockton, Billingham and County Durham.

Shell Connections was established nine years ago by London's National Theatre, in response to a demand for new plays for young people to perform.

The programme involves oil firm Shell, the National Theatre, 13 regional theatres, and publishers Faber and Faber.

The programme began with a weekend of workshops in Keswick, Cumbria, and will continue until June with 13 regional showcases.

For tickets and details of performances, ring the Theatre Royal box office on 0870 905 5060.