Poet Sean O'Brien's new version of Aristophanes' comic masterpiece, The Birds, receives its UK premiere tonight, 26 July 2002, at the National Theatre ahead of a regional tour, mounted in a Big Top tent and continuing until 6 October to five further venues.

A collaboration between the National and renowned touring troupe Mamaloucos – initially as part of the NT's £1.5 milliion, five-month Transformation season of new work in the Lyttelton Theatre - The Birds combines the modern circus with classical Greek drama, performed against O'Brien's contemporary text.

The Birds details a futile search for utopia. Grecian chancers Pez and Eck envisage a nation where men live as freely as birds. Now they have to convince the oppressed eagles, rooks, finches and owls of their plan - then they must take on the Gods.

Marcello Magni leads a cast of 12 circus performer/actors, directed by Olivier Award-winning performer Kathryn Hunter with aerial choreography care of Matt Costain. The Birds is designed by Liz Cooke, with lighting by Paul Anderson, music by Nikola Kodjabashia and sound by Christopher Shutt.

The Birds continues at the NT Lyttelton until 14 August, then launches its Big Top tour at The Lowry in Salford on 22 August, before continuing to Bristol, Telford, Beverley and Brighton

- by Sarah Beaumont & Terri Paddock