The drama strand of the Barbican's BITE:99 festival kicks off next week with the UK premiere of the Israeli play City - Odessa Stories. This is the second year of BITE (the Barbican International Theatre Event) which runs to October and offers an eclectic mix of international dance, drama and musical theatre. The 1999 festival features work from eight countries and includes ten UK and London premieres, six of them plays. Other drama highlights include a three-week Samuel Beckett Festival, the first time the entire canon of the Irish playwright's work is being performed in this country.

City - Odessa Stories plays five performances from 1 to 5 June. The piece, based on the work of Jewish author Isaak Babel and adapted and directed by Yevgeny Arye, comprises six tales of Jewish life in the mythical city. It is performed by Tel-Aviv's Gesher Theatre company. St Petersburg's celebrated Maly Drama Theatre is next up with another UK premiere from 9 to 13 June, also part of the Barbican's St Petersburg Festival. They will be performing Platonov, or The Play with No Name, directed by Lev Dodin.

From 17 to 22 June, the French company Théâtre Nanterre Amandiers will present the UK premiere of Marivaux's comedy of manners, The Game of Love and Chance, directed by Jean-Pierre Vincent. The piece will be performed in French with English surtitles. Then, from 23 June to 10 July, Canadian Ronnie Burkett will present the London premiere of his award-winning show, Tinka's New Dress. Set during a totalitarian regime, the story follows a group of survivors who find hope in the forbidden cabaret of a ghetto drag club.

In September (1-18), Dublin's Gate Theatre brings its festival of 19 Beckett plays to the Barbican. In addition to the author's full repertoire, from Waiting for Godot to his tiny 'dramaticule' Come and Go, the festival, seen in Dublin in 1991 and at New York's Lincoln Center in 1996, will also include films, music, visual arts, talks and seminars.

Later that month, 21 September to 9 October, The Wrestling School will present 20 performances of Howard Barker's Scenes from an Execution. First staged at the Almeida in 1986, Scenes from an Execution explores the conflict between the interests of the patron and the artist's obligation to self and truth. And finally, in a co-production between the Barbican and the Edinburgh International Festival, the Royal Lyceum Theatre company presents the classic Spanish drama Life is a Dream, by Pedro Calderon de la Barca. The work is translated by John Clifford and directed by Calixta Bieito.