As the countdown to the 2002 World Cup in Japan begins, two new London productions are timed to bring the football closer to home for theatregoers. A Carpet, a Pony and a Monkey, set during the Euro 2000 championships, opens tonight, 17 May 2002, at the Bush Theatre, while the revival of An Evening with Gary Lineker, setting the sports clock back even further, to the infamous 1990 World Cup, opens at Riverside Studios on 25 June.

Two years ago, playwright Mike Packer was commissioned by the Bush to follow ticket touts to Euro 2000. A Carpet, a Pony and a Monkey is the play which he wrote based on his experiences. Come tournament time, millionaire ticket tout Baz has blown it all on dot.com shares so he's off to Belgium to shift 300 tickets to England vs Germany to a bunch of pissed-up Geordies.

Directed by Bush artistic director Mike Bradwell as part of the theatre's 30th anniversary season, A Carpet, a Pony and a Monkey runs in Shepherd's Bush from 15 May to 15 June. The cast are Clint Dyer, Philip Jackson, Lucy Punch and Nicholas Tennant. The production is designed by Lisa Lillywhite and lit by Nich Richings.

An Evening with Gary Lineker, by Chris England and author and presenter Arthur Smith, has been specially updated for its 2002 outing and now features a narrator called Sven the Coach. The comedy transports us back to Italia '90 and the World Cup semi-final between England and arch-enemy Germany - an infamous game that, despite Lineker's goal, ended in penalties and tears (not least from Gazza). While the game unravels, Monica and Bill try to discuss their troubled marriage.

This new production of An Evening with Gary Lineker is directed by Steve Richards for Splats Entertainment and runs at Hammersmith's Riverside Studios from 25 June to 20 July 2002, following earlier stops in Guildford and Harlow.

- by Terri Paddock