Amongst the major shows opening in London this week to kick off the new year are:

OPENING TONIGHT, Tuesday 3 January 2006 (previews from 21 December 2005), Martin Shaw plays Sir Thomas More, the man who confronted King Henry VIII in his rejection of the Roman Catholic Church in order to divorce and remarry, in a new production of Robert Bolt’s 1960 play A Man for All Seasons at the West End’s Theatre Royal, Haymarket, following a two-month regional tour (See News, 3 Oct 2005). Shaw stars alongside his daughter, actress Sophie Shaw, who plays Lady Margaret More in Michael Rudman’s production. The cast also features Tony Bell, Clive Carter and Daniel Flynn.

** DON’T MISS the chance to see A Man for All Seasons in top-price seats for just 10! – offer ends 14 January 2006 - click here for more details! **

OPENING THURSDAY, 5 January 2006 (preview 4 January), another play about Thomas More is at the West End’s Trafalgar Studios, part of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Gunpowder season transferred from Stratford-upon-Avon. Robert Delamere’s production of the so-called ‘banned’ play Thomas More - attributed to the bard, Anthony Munday and others - features Nigel Cooke in the title role. It continues until 14 January 2006.

ALSO ON THURSDAY, Cirque du Soleil stage its latest annual residency at the Royal Albert Hall by reprising Alegria, previously seen in the UK in 1998 and 1999 (See News, 29 Sep 2005). The award-winning Canadian circus company's show features a blend of spectacular acrobatics, aerial acts, dramatic lighting and elaborate set design. It’s performed by an international cast of 56 performers and musicians from 13 countries. It runs until 5 February 2006.

ALSO TONIGHT (previews from 3 January 2006), the Finborough Theatre in Earl’s Court hosts the world premiere of The Gabriels, a specially commissioned new play by Australian playwright Van Badham, with a cast that includes Kevin Colson appearing here for the third time.

OPENING SUNDAY, 8 January 2006, the Finborough hosts a series of Sunday evening performances of Florodora, a musical that originally opened in 1899 and was the first musical comedy of the 20th century. Set on a small island in the Philippines where young native girls produce the “Florodora” perfume, Nina Brazier directs a cast that includes Rosemary Ashe and Simon Butteriss.

- by Caroline Ansdell