Amongst the major shows opening in London this week are:

OPENING TONIGHT, Monday 14 March 2005, (previews 10 March), The Fortune Club receives its world premiere at north London’s Tricycle Theatre, where it continues until 2 April (See News, 26 Jan 2005). In Dolly Dhingra’s play, a disillusioned group of friends meet in an East End bar on New Year’s Eve and hatch a plan to make their fortunes, which catapults them into a world of greed, glamour and deceit. The play, inspired by a true crime, is directed by Kully Thiarai and produced in association with the Leicester Haymarket. After the Tricycle, the production plays in Leicester from 7 to 23 April.

ALSO TONIGHT (previews from 11 March), Joanna Laurens’ play Poor Beck opens at Soho Theatre for a short run to 16 March 2005 as part of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s New Work Festival (See News, 6 Dec 2004). Like Zinnie Harris’ Midwinter, which opened at Soho last week, Laurens’ play – about love, language and senses - started life in Stratford-upon-Avon as part of the RSC’s inaugural New Work Festival in autumn 2004. Directed by Daniel Fish, the cast features Greg Hicks, Sian Brooke and Louis Hilyer.

OPENING TUESDAY, 15 March 2005 (previews from 5 March 2005), the National Theatre revives Federico Garcia Lorca’s all-female family tragedy The House of Bernarda Alba, in a new translation by David Hare directed by Howard Davies, at the NT Lyttelton. Leading a cast that also features Deborah Findlay and Sandy McDade, Penelope Wilton returns to the South Bank after a ten-year absence to take the title role as the strict matriarch. The Spanish poet and playwright Lorca, whose other plays include Blood Wedding and Yerma, was murdered by supporters of fascist dictator General Franco on 18 August 1936, two months after completing The House of Bernarda Alba.

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ALSO ON TUESDAY, there are cast changes in the musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the West End’s London Palladium. Brian Conley and Alvin Stardust take over as Caractacus Potts and the Child Catcher, respectively, for a limited 14-week season at the West End’s London Palladium.

ALSO ON TUESDAY (previews from 12 March), The Wrong Man, the debut play by former IRA activist Danny Morrison, receives its world premiere at north London’s Pleasance Theatre, where it continues until 3 April 2005. Born in Belfast in 1953, Morrison joined the IRA in his teens and worked as the publicity director for Sinn Fein for 11 years. His tenure ended with his arrest in 1990 in connection with the abduction of an IRA informer he’d never met. Begun while he was still in prison and based on his own experiences, The Wrong Man charts the fear and paranoia caused by the knowledge of an informer at work.

ALSO ON TUESDAY, at north London’s Arcola Theatre, Oxford Stage Company and Dumbfounded Theatre launch the “Last Waltz” season (See News, 1 Mar 2005), featuring revivals of three neglected plays by German writers – Frank Wedekind’s Musik involving a backstreet abortionist, Gerhart Hauptmann’s Rose Bernd tracing a woman’s downfall, and Arthur Schnitzler’s Professor Bernhardi in which a Jewish doctor becomes the target of a witch hunt. The productions are performed by an ensemble of 16 actors and run in repertory until 7 May 2005. The season includes three Waltz Saturdays when audiences can see all three plays on the same day.

OPENING WEDNESDAY, 16 March 2005 (previews from 10 March 2005), Eve Best (last year’s Critics’ Circle Best Actress for Mourning Becomes Electra) takes the title role in Henrik Ibsen’s 1890 classic Hedda Gabler, newly adapted and directed by former NT artistic director Richard Eyre at north London’s Almeida Theatre.

Set in the Norwegian home of newlyweds George and Hedda Tesman near the turn of the 20th century, Hedda Gabler reveals a passionate woman struggling in a bourgeois world that she finds devoid of excitement. The cast also features Iain Glen, Lisa Dillon and Benedict Cumberbatch. The limited season concludes on 30 April 2005.

ON SUNDAY, 20 March 2005, One Knight Only, the high-profile theatrical fundraiser for the Asian tsunami appeal, takes place at the West End’s Theatre Royal Haymarket. No fewer than six theatrical Dames – Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Joan Plowright, Helen Mirren, Diana Rigg and Eileen Atkins (all pictured) - will take part. The charity event takes its punning title from the fact that, despite the abundance of Dames, there will be only one Knight amongst the participating actors, Sir Antony Sher. Amongst the other stars due to appear are: Kim Cattrall, Edward Fox, Joanna Lumley, Sian Phillips, Patrick Stewart, Zoe Wanamaker and Celia Imrie. For further information, call 0870 602 1112.

- by Terri Paddock