Amongst the major openings in London this week are:

OPENING TONIGHT, Monday 22 January 2007 (previews from 18 January), there’s a second chance to see Comfort Me with Apples at Hampstead Theatre (See News, 23 Nov 2006). Premiered at the north London new writing centre in October 2005, it won author Nell Leyshon that year’s Evening Standard Award for Most Promising Playwright (See News, 18 Jul 2005). As apples fall and rot on a Somerset farm, old ways are tested in the tale about our changing rural landscape. Directed again by Lucy Bailey and designed by Mike Britton, the production continues at Hampstead until 27 January, before touring from 29 January to 31 March 2007.

OPENING TUESDAY, 23 January 2007, Will Adamsdale’s Fringe First-winning play The Receipt comes to Lyric Hammersmith’s Studio for a limited London season to 10 February (See News, 11 Dec 2006). Written by Adamsdale – who won a Perrier for Jackson’s Way and was seen in the West End last autumn in Eric Bogosian’s Notes from Underground - it follows a man who flips out and searches a city for the owner of a receipt. The two-hander premiered at last summer’s Edinburgh festival and is performed by Adamsdale and Chris Branch.

ALSO ON TUESDAY (previews from 8 January) at the West End’s Palace Theatre, Simon Russell Beale faces the press in Monty Python’s blockbuster Broadway musical Spamalot, which has just been nominated for seven Laurence Olivier Awards (See News, 18 Jan 2007). Russell Beale, best known for his classical stage roles at the National Theatre and Donmar Warehouse, succeeds Tim Curry (as he did on Broadway), in a cast that also features Hannah Waddingham, David Birrell, Robert Hands, American Christopher Sieber (who will be replaced by Graham McDuff from 29 January) and Tom Goodman-Hill.

OPENING WEDNESDAY, 24 January 2007 (previews from 18 January), at the National Theatre, Fiona Shaw stars in Deborah Warner’s new production of Happy Days, which runs in rep for 31 performances only to 1 March 2007 in the NT Lyttelton. In Samuel Beckett's 1960 stage classic, which opened the Lyttelton in 1976, Shaw is sand-buried optimist Winnie, previously famously played by the likes of Billie Whitelaw, Peggy Ashcroft, Madeleine Renaud, Irene Worth and, in the West End in 2003, Felicity Kendal. Shaw and Warner have previously collaborate on Medea, Electra, Hedda Gabler, The Waste Land, Richard II, The Good Person of Sichuan and The Powerbook.

OPENING THURSDAY, 25 January 2007 (previews from 18 January), Kristin Scott Thomas, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Mackenzie Crook star in the Royal Court staging of Chekhov’s The Seagull, in a new version by Christopher Hampton (See News, 31 Jul 2006). The final offering in the theatre’s year-long 50th anniversary season and the swansong production from outgoing artistic director Ian Rickson, it runs in the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Downstairs until 17 March 2007.

Ejiofor plays Trigorin, the literary lover of Scott Thomas’ ageing actress Madame Arkadina. Crook is Arkadina’s troubled son Konstantin in a cast that also features Carey Mulligan (as Nina), Katherine Parkinson (Masha), Peter Wight (Sorin), Pearce Quigley (Medviedenko), Paul Jesson (Shamraeff), Patrick Nolan (Jacob), Denise Black (Paulina) and Art Malik (Dorn).

The Royal Court’s production of The Seagull is the second of three stagings of Chekhov’s 1896 classic from the UK’s leading theatrical institutions. Katie Mitchell’s production, featuring Juliet Stevenson and Ben Whishaw, was seen this past autumn at the National; in March, Ian McKellen, Frances Barber, William Gaunt and Romola Garai will star in a Royal Shakespeare Company production directed by Trevor Nunn in Stratford-upon-Avon (See News, 17 Jan 2007).

OPENING THURSDAY, 26 January 2007 (previews from 23 January), another Chekhov classic, 1899’s Uncle Vanya, is revived at east London’s historic but semi-derelict Wilton’s Music Hall for a limited season to 10 February 2007 (See News, 29 Dec 2006). David Mamet’s 1988 version is directed by Hugh Fraser. The cast includes Colin Stinton, Ronan Vibert, Rachael Stirling, Catherine Cusack and Philip Voss.

- by Terri Paddock