The Barbican International Theatre Event 2001 (BITE:01) will run from May to October this year, with 19 productions and 180 performances over the six-month period. Uniting drama, dance, visual and music theatre with family shows and free events, BITE:01 aims to present "innovative work from some of the most exciting performance companies and artists in the world today."

Theatregoers will find a strong element of classical storytelling on offer, with a Myths and Monsters family weekend also taking place over 19 & 20 May. Related discussions will feature conversation with Sir Peter Hall, Liz Lochhead, Timberlake Wertenbaker and Michael Billington among other guests. In fact, Hall's Tantalus (based on John Barton's Trojan Wars plays) will open the season from 2 May.

To complement the Tantalus cycle, Anthos Theatre's Odyssey will be performed in The Pit from 19 May to 2 June. Other highlights include Robert Wilson's direction of August Strindberg's A Dream Play. Wilson's distinctive stagecraft is to be demonstrated by Stockholm's Stadsteatern, in a play of gods and men set in early 20th century Sweden.

Elsewhere, award-winning director Julie Taymor (whose credits include The Lion King and the screen version of Titus) will provide the puppetry and costumes for Carlo Gozzi's The King Stag. Presented by American Repertory Theatre, the drama utilises masks, movement and a myriad of theatrical forms to tell the story of a king's search for a wife. Japan's acclaimed Ninagawa Company (pictured) will present two spectacular Noh plays exploring earthly transience, and Chorus Repertory Theatre of Manipur recount the tale of a 2nd century warrior in Uttar Priyadarshi.

Contemporary themes are examined in Richard Maxwell's House and Boxing 2000, in which everyday suburban life comes under the microscope. Canadian puppeteer Ronnie Burkett's new show, Happy , and Theatre O's 3 Dark Tales also aim to relate stories of human existence in all their joy and sorrow. Meanwhile, the UK premiere of Third World Bunfight's Big Dada charts Ugandan Idi Amin's descent into paranoia through a labyrinth of African theatrical forms.

BITE:01 also contains modern Greek and Swedish film seasons showing on Barbican Screen. Attractions in the BITE:01 Dance programme include Cullberg Ballet's Swan Lake, directed by Mats Ek. Belgium's Rosas Company offer text and movement in i Said i, whilst Batsheva Dance present stilt-walkers and avenging angels in Sabotage Baby.

- by Gareth Thompson