Amongst the major shows opening in London this week are:

OPENING TONIGHT, Monday 6 June 2005 (previews from 30 May), is the first of the week’s two new productions at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, Twelfth Night (See News, 17 Jan 2005). Desmond Barrit (last seen in the NT’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum) stars as Sir Toby Belch, in a cast that also features Simon Day as Feste, Martin Jarvis as Malvolio and Harriet Thorpe as Maria in Timothy Sheader’s production. The Shakespeare comedy continues in rep until 1 September 2005.

OPENING TUESDAY, 7 June 2005 (previews from 24 May), the West Yorkshire Playhouse production of The Postman Always Rings Twice transfers from Leeds to the West End’s Playhouse, where it’s been recast to feature Hollywood film star Val Kilmer making his London stage debut (See News, 12 Apr 2005). Andrew Rattenbury’s stage adaptation of the American thriller had its world premiere in Leeds last October when Patrick O'Kane played the part of drifter Frank, which will now be taken by Kilmer. (See News, 22 Sep 2004). Charlotte Emmerson reprises her performance as Cora, the bored wife of a 1930s roadside diner owner, whose drab existence is shaken up by Frank’s arrival.

Kilmer’s 40-plus Hollywood films have included Batman Forever, The Saint, Top Gun, The Doors and Wonderland while Emmerson is familiar to theatregoers for her recent credits in the likes of The Cherry Orchard and The Coast of Utopia at the National. The Postman Always Rings Twice reunites Emmerson with the same creative team behind Baby Doll, director Lucy Bailey and designer Bunny Christie. It’s booking for a limited ten-week season until 30 July 2005.

ALSO ON TUESDAY (previews from 2 June), The Countess opens at the West End’s Criterion Theatre (See News, 4 Apr 2005). Nick Moran (Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels) and Alison Pargeter (Evening Standard Best Newcomer for Damsels in Distress) star as John Ruskin and Effie, in the play which was long-running hit Off-Broadway. Gregory Murphy’s drama recounts a real-life love scandal dating from 1853. It’s directed by Ludovica Villar-Hauser, who produced and directed the play’s world premiere in New York. The Countess is booking until 17 September 2005.

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OPENING WEDNESDAY, 8 June 2005 (previews from 25 May), the Abbey Theatre Dublin’s recent sell-out production of The Shaughraun transfers to the West End’s Albery Theatre (See News, 6 Apr 2005). Irish playwright Dion Boucicault's 1874 comic melodrama is directed in this new production by John McColgan (best known in this country for Riverdance). It was first seen last summer at the Abbey and returned for a second Christmas season as part of the theatre’s centenary celebrations. The Shaughraun is booking until 24 September 2005.

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ALSO ON WEDNESDAY (preview 7 June), A N Zakarian’s A Thousand Yards receives its world premiere at the fringe Southwark Playhouse. Telling the story of a picture editor rapidly losing her sight, it stars Ruari Conaghan, Gerard Kearns (from TV’s Shameless), Susan Vidler and John Webb. It’s presented by Feast Theatre and directed by Roisin McBrinn. Its limited season continues until 25 June 2005.

OPENING THURSDAY, 9 June 2005 (preview 8 June), Ridiculusmus’ two-man version of The Importance of Being Earnest comes to the Barbican Pit (See News, 2 Jun 2005). Directed by ex-WYP artistic director Jude Kelly, it’s billed as “a trivial comedy performed by two serious people”, and is a co-commission between the Barbican and the Ridiculusmus double act, aka David Woods and Jon Haynes, who divide all of the play’s nine roles between them. Following its Australian tour, the new version receives its UK premiere at the Barbican, where it runs until 9 July 2005, before embarking on a regional tour.

ALSO ON THURSDAY (previews from 31 May), Tick Tick Boom, the posthumously produced autobiographical musical by Pulitzer Prize-winning Rent creator Jonathan Larson, receives its European premiere at south London’s Menier Chocolate Factory (See News, 14 Apr 2005). The new production stars Neil Patrick Harris (TV’s Doogie Howser MD) and is directed by fellow American Scott Schwartz, who also directed the original Off-Broadway production. The musical continues until 3 September 2005.

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OPENING FRIDAY, 10 June 2005 (previews from 1 June), is the second Open Air Theatre offering of the week, and another Shakespeare, Cymbeline (See News, 17 Jan 2005). Hal Fowler, returning to Regent’s Park after playing Mike Connors in 2003’s High Society, is Caius Lucius with Martin Jarvis taking the role of Posthumus and Emma Pallant as Imogen. The production – the first Cymbeline in Regent’s Park for over 50 years - is directed by Rachel Kavanaugh and it continues in rep until 3 September 2005.

- by Hannah Kennedy