Birmingham Rep's autumn/winter season 2004, which gets under way this week, features major revivals of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible and Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia as well as a double bill of Christmas shows in adaptations of Roald Dahl’s The Witches and, snatched back after six years in London, Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman.

Opening tonight (16 September 2004) in the main house, after an acclaimed run at this year’s Edinburgh International Festival (See News, 16 Aug 2004), is the co-production of Celestina, Fernando De Rojas' 1499, which is directed by controversial Spanish director Calixto Bieito and stars Kathryn Hunter as the brothel madam of the title.

It’s followed by Rep artistic director Jonathan Church's production of Arthur Miller's 1953 modern classic The Crucible. Set in 1692 in Massachusetts, the play centres on the reign of terror unleashed during the Salem witchcraft trials, but was in fact a thinly veiled response from Miller to the 20th-century "anti-American" communist witch-hunts of Senator Joseph McCarthy. The Rep production stars Malcolm Storry as John Proctor and Tony Britton as Judge Danforth. It runs from 1 to 23 October 2004 in Birmingham before embarking on a national tour.

Next in the main house, Rep associate artist Rachel Kavanaugh directs Arcadia, in a co-production with Bristol Old Vic. Described as part detective, part love story, Stoppard's Olivier Award-winning 1993 play is a tragi-comedy of mathematics, literature and landscape gardening. It runs in Birmingham from 29 October to 13 November, following Bristol from 17 September to 16 October 2004.

The first of the Christmas shows, both Rep-originated productions, is Dahl's The Witches, playing 1 December 2004 to 8 January 2005 ahead of a 15-week tour. The second Christmas show is Bill Alexander's production of The Snowman, based on Briggs' 1978 illustrated picture book. After six consecutive festive seasons in London (See News, 29 May 2003), it returns to Birmingham for a limited run from 14 to 30 January 2005.

Meanwhile, the Rep's studio theatre, the Door, will host an impressive selection of new writing. After this month’s International Young Playwrights Season, which concludes on 18 September, there will be two world premieres: Jack Shepherd’s Through a Cloud (10 to 27 November) and Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti’s Behzti (9 to 30 December).

Through a Cloud was inspired by the relationship between John Milton and Oliver Cromwell and written while Shepherd was performing in last year’s David Hare trilogy at the Rep; he will also perform in this play. Kaur Bhatti's previous play Behsharam was presented at the Door in 2001.

Visiting productions during the season include: in the main house, Season's Greetings, starring Rep associate artist and this year’s Best Actor Olivier Award winner Matthew Kelly (See News, 20 Jul 2004); and in the studio, Sarah Woods’ play for children Through the Woods, Howard Barker's new Wrestling School production of Dead Hands and Yellow Earth’s 58.

- by Hannah Kennedy