Former soap star Patsy Palmer returns to the London stage for the third time in less than a year next week. She stars in the world premiere of Tony Craze's Squint, which runs from 25 September to 18 October (previews from 22 September) at Chelsea Theatre, launching the west London venue's new autumn season.

Palmer (pictured) is best known for her six years as Bianca in EastEnders, a role for which she won Best Actress in the British Soap Awards. She left the programme in 1999 to spend more time with her family. In December 2003, Palmer took to the stage at Riverside Studios' alternative panto The Night Before Christmas, which she followed up this past spring with a run in the West End comedy in Mum's the Word.

Squint, directed by Sue Dunderdale, explores a world in which desperate people are addicted to the belief that the answer to what they want lies outside themselves. What they really want is a miracle.

Chelsea Theatre's autumn season continues with a week of rehearsed readings (17 to 22 November 2003) of 11 new plays in conjunction with Sphinx Theatre Company, collectively called Fear and Loathing in King's Road, and Chris Speyer's children's show, Feast, with Monster Productions (27 November to 23 December 2003).


Meanwhile, another west London theatre, the Gate in Notting Hill, has launched its autumn season of plays, three modern versions of the ancient myths of Antigone, Electra and Iphigenia.

The first in the "Under the Curse" season, Tom Paulin's The Riot Act after Sophocles' Antigone, opened last night (17 September, following previews from 15 September). Directed by Alan Cox, the play transplants the battle of an uncompromising heroine with a would-be peacemaker to Northern Ireland in 1984. The Riot Act continues until 11 October 2003.

It's followed by Jean Giraudoux's 1936 version of Electra, after Sophocles and Euripides, translated by Winifred Smith, which sets the tragedy in pre-war France. Directed by Gate artistic director Erica Whyman, it runs from 22 October to 15 November 2003 (previews 20 October). The season concludes with Under the Curse, Goethe's version of Euripides' Iphigenia in Tauris, re-set in Germany in 1787. Translated by Dan Farrelly and directed by Joe Hill-Gibbins, it runs 26 November to 13 December 2003 (previews 24 November).

- by Terri Paddock