The Barbican's third annual international theatre season kicks off this month. This year's BITE:00 (Barbican International Theatre Event), which runs until October 2000, encompasses 180 performances of 19 productions - two especially commissioned for BITE - over six months.

The season's nine drama productions range from the world-famous Comedie Francaise company performing Moliere's Scapin's Trickeries (Les Fourberies de Scapin) in the Barbican Theatre to the Australian one-woman show White Baptist Abba Fan in the Pit. Other highlights include Chicago's acclaimed Steppenwolf Theatre Company who return after last year's The Man Who Came to Dinner with Dale Wasserman's adaptation of Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest; the Abbey Theatre, Dublin's new production of The Secret Fall of Constance Wilde, the untold story of Oscar Wilde's wife; the return of Barry McGovern, feted for his appearances at BITE:99 in the Gate Theatre, Dublin's Beckett Festival with I'll Go On; and the Ping Chong Company in Kwaidan, a poetic retelling of three Japanese ghost stores by a cast of dancers, actors and puppets.

The musical theatre programme is headed by Laurie Anderson's Songs and Stories from Moby Dick, which opens in the Barbican Theatre on 24 May, and includes Clear Water from Trinidad and Tobago, and Cryptic Theatre's Parallel Lines, an award-winning adaptation of Molly Boom's soliloquy from James Joyce's Ulysses.

The BITE season was begun two years ago as a response to the fact that the Royal Shakespeare Company, which had formerly been resident at the Barbican year-round, had decided not to appear in London during the summer months. It has now become a fixture on the annual theatre calendar.