MAKATO Nakura, playing at a free recital at the Academy for Performing Arts on Monday, is one of those extraordinary child prodigies who has grown up and lived up to expectations and become a world-class virtuoso. It helped that he picked an instrument that most people have scarcely heard of, the marimba. A marimba is not a big xylophone, he insists, although to an untrained eye it certainly looks like one. Nakura has been spellbound by the marimba since the age of eight when he heard one played and thought: 'It's a miracle.' He has never looked back and now performs everything from George Gershwin to Rimsky Korsakov, all with a lightning flash of the mallets that he modestly compares to using chopsticks. The Arts Festival 1996 is strangely scheduled to start in that week following Lunar New Year when no one ever returns your calls and half the shops are still eerily shut. Fearful, perhaps, that the earlier shows in the festival might suffer poor ticket sales as a result, the organisers have come up with a marvellous season of pre-festival tasters, where experts explain just why this stuff is so good. In the first at 3pm on Saturday at the Cultural Centre, critic Kwong Wai-lap will introduce Latin American theatre, represented by Grupo de Teatro Macunaima and Augusto Boal. Later, composer Kung Chi-sung will talk listeners through 20th century music using videos and CDs of the Piano Circus and the Kronos Quartet. At the Arts Centre tomorrow night, they are going to the other extreme, celebrating the lowest of low-brow culture in the form of a sing-along of Grease, the movie. This is your chance to relive the late 70s musical experience, marvel at John Travolta before he became a born-again serious actor, and the squeaky clean 'ONJ' (Olivia Newton John) as she is known to the Grease experts in Wan Chai. Unmissable fun for closet karaoke fans. The Original Photograph Club is having a discreet little show at the Fringe starting on Wednesday. To belong to the club you have to be a photographer with an eye for something more than picture postcard street scenes: this is some of the most imaginative art photography in the territory. Local English-language theatricals are not a personal favourite, but some are less embarrassing than others and in the past year, newcomers Queen's Cafe Theatre have been better than average. Their latest show is Old Times, by old misery guts himself Harold Pinter. Pinter is always tricky for amateurs and this isn't one of his better-known pieces but Queen's Cafe have carried off Miss Julie and Tartuffe without embarrassment so the portents are good for this production, which starts at the Fringe on December 7. Radioheads should note that Radio 3's lunchtime woman, Liz Case, is involved so fans of her show can put a face to the wonderful voice.