Supporters of Oldbury Repertory Players have been finding the auditorium at Langley's Barlow Theatre more chilly than they were expecting during the current run of Beauty and the Beast.

It's because squirrels have found their way into the roof and been making free with the insulation. And all this, so I'm told, goes back to the relaying of the roof tiles a few years back.

What is even odder is the fact that the Beast's manservant, played by Rob Hodgkiss, has a line that says, "You must come and see a basket of produce - if the squirrels haven't eaten it, of course."

And taking oddities to their extreme, I'm assured that this is in the script by group member Mark Stokes - though I suspect it may have been inserted after the squirrels began to make their presence known.

Box office manager Sally Pratt said, "We've got a couple of little furry friends up there and they chewed their way through brand new electrics that we had last year, so we've had to get electricians in to replace some of the cables.

"The park is right behind us, so they found a couple of loose tiles on the roof and came in to keep warm. They've dragged the insulation from one end of the building to the other to make a nice big nest.

"One was even seen in the auditorium when we were getting ready for Deck the Halls, the show we did with Langley Band before Christmas. We were half-expecting him to join us in Come, All Ye Faithful. We haven't seen him since, so we're not sure whether our carol-singing sent him scurrying back to the loft."

Ironically, the squirrels have come to visit at a time when there has been a drop in the figures for paying patrons since the Protection of Children Act.

Sally said, "We used to have large group bookings from Brownies, Cubs and Guide groups but they have definitely dropped off over the last couple of years. I believe it might be down to the fact that there are so many restrictions these days about how children have to be accompanied.

"Even some church organisations feel that to safeguard children they have to have a criminal records check Then there is the difficulty that if you are bringing children of a certain age you have to have so many adults with them."

What is particularly sad is that Beauty and the Beast is totally absorbing those youngsters lucky enough to get in despite the stout resistance provided by health and safety. It's a delightful show, and it finishes on Saturday. 

 I am stepping beyond the bounds of amateur theatre here, but only because I reckon that people who perform for the love of it are not averse to knowing what's going on in the great big world outside.

Take note, therefore of the Effing and Blinding! Cabaret, which will have one night at Wolverhampton's Arena Theatre on March 20.

Why do I mention the show and its so attractive name? Because its performers are blind and the whole thing - not suitable for people under 14, we are told - takes place in complete darkness. It also involves interaction with the audience.

So there's a new experience for you! It could be time to boldly go. 

 Members of Highbury Youth Theatre will take over the studio at the Sutton Coldfield venue from tomorrow until Saturday with their annual evening of improvisation.

A company of 25 will present more than 30 sketches which will include tap-dancing from scratch and a guest appearance from Jonathan Ross - in which connection, don't turn up under too many delusions, but it sounds good.

I quibble only with the name of the show - LOL (Loads of Laughter). I'm sure somebody could have thought of something that would trip more readily off the tongue. 

 I am delighted to see that Hall Green Little Theatre is to start its new year with See How They Run, the Philip King romp involving a vicar, his actress wife, a nosey spinster neighbour, an escaped prisoner of war, a handsome actor and a visiting bishop.

If it is given the treatment it deserves, it will send the patrons home in a high state of hilarity. The show will run from Friday next week to February 2. The performance on Tuesday, January 29, will be a civic night with the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Birmingham, Coun and Mrs Randal Brew, in the audience.

Beauty and the Beast, Oldbury Rep, Barlow Theatre, Langley (to Saturday).
Charley's Aunt, Grange Players, Grange Playhouse, Walsall (to Saturday).
Charlotte Badger, Aardvark Productions, Artrix, Bromsgrove (to Sunday).
Dick Whittington, Norbury Theatre, Droitwich (to Jan 27).
Jack and the Beanstalk, Aldridge Theatre (to Jan 26).
Crown Matrimonial, Talisman Theatre, Kenilworth (to Jan 26).
LOL (Loads of Laughter), Highbury Little Theatre, Sutton Coldfield (Jan 17-19).
Cinderella, Nuneaton Pantomime and Revue Society, Bedworth Civic Hall (Jan 23-26).
See How They Run, Hall Green Little Theatre (Jan 25-Feb 2.)