The Barbican Centre's annual festival of international dance, drama and music theatre, BITE:00, has announced that it will open this year with the UK premiere of a multi-media music-theatre production by Laurie Anderson, Songs and Stories from Moby Dick. Being presented in the Barbican Theatre for five performances only from May 24-28, the piece is based on Herman Melville's famous and influential novel of vengeance in distant oceans.

Anderson has reportedly based the work on her responses, meditations and reflections on the book. She has said: 'While the book is mainly about a boat searching for a whale, it's full of thousands of related short stories on the night sky, the behavior of polar bears, theories about the origins of the universe and countless other topics. I discovered that this was very much the way my own mind works - associative and imagistic rather than plot driven and narrative. I was struck with the incredibly beautiful language - archaic, Biblical, technical and lyrical. Some of the words even seemed to have been written as songs. They just jumped singing off the page.'

The resulting work will embrace her trademark visual elements (both still and in motion), computer effects, unusual musical instruments, and will feature Anderson herself. The text is drawn from Melville's novel and Anderson's own words. The show also marks Anderson's debut as a director of actors, who will join her onstage to perform various roles as readers, sailors, commentators or critics. Video-designer Christoper Kondek has collaborated with Anderson to produce the film and slide projections used in the show.

The piece joins a season that has already been announced to include appearances by the legendary Comedie-Francaise from France, Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company, and Dublin's Abbey Theatre.

Steppenwolf, who last appeared in London in 1998 as part of the first BITE with their production of The Man Who Came to Dinner starring Frasier's John Mahoney, are bringing a new staging of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Dale Wasserman's stage adaptation of Ken Kesey's novel. Directed by Terry Kinney and premiering in Chicago in April 2000, it will play in London during July and August. Steppenwolf co-founder Gary Sinise, star of such films as Forrest Gump (for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor), will lead the cast as Randle McMurphy, the con who is transferred from prison to a state mental hospital for 'diagnosis and treatment.' Sinise also starred in Steppenwolf's production of The Grapes of Wrath that was also seen at London's National Theatre and subsequently on Broadway, where he was Tony nominated.

The Comedie-Francaise are bringing their production of Moliere's Les Fourberies de Scapin, directed by Jean-Louis Benoit, to London in June. The play will be performed in French with English surtitles.

Dublin's Abbey Theatre will stage Thomas Kilroy's The Secret Fall of Constance Wilde, first seen in Dublin in 1997 and subsequently seen at the 1998 Melbourne Festival, in September-October. Patrick Mason directs the play which tells the story of the passionate marriage of opposites between Oscar Wilde and Constance Holland-Lloyd.