Among the major shows opening in London this week are:

OPENING TONIGHT, 19 September 2005 (previews from 15 September) Michael Pennington plays the title role in Nathan the Wise at Hampstead Theatre (See News, 18 Jul 2005). Written in 1799 by German playwright Gotthold Lessing and set in 1192, the tale of religious tolerance takes place at the time of the Third Crusade in Jerusalem, where a Jewish merchant is caught between the occupying Muslim forces and the blockading Christian armies. The cast of artistic director Anthony Clark’s production also includes Anna Carteret.

ALSO TONIGHT, Simon Callow makes his musical theatre debut in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Woman in White at the West End’s Palace Theatre (See News, 1 Aug 2005). He stars alongside Ruthie Henshall in the romantic thriller based on Wilkie Collins’ classic Victorian novel.

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OPENING WEDNESDAY, 21 September 2005 (previews from 12 September), David Edgar’s Playing with Fire receives its world premiere at the National’s Olivier Theatre as the final production in this year’s Travelex £10 season (See News, 12 Jul 2005). It’s set in a fictional northern town, where the Labour-led town council is a shambles. The councillors are fundamentally out of touch with their citizens, who are mostly unemployed, badly housed - and non-white. The play charts the arrival of an ambitious civil servant, sent up from Whitehall to sort things out. Oliver Ford Davies, Emma Fielding and David Troughton star in Michael Attenborough’s production.

OPENING THURSDAY, 22 September 2005 (previews from 12 September), Notting Hill’s Gate Theatre presents a radically updated version of the 1968 Broadway musical Hair (See News, 28 Apr 2005). The production, directed by Daniel Kramer, marks the 70-seater venue’s first-ever musical. A love triangle between shy Claude and his friends Sheila and the charismatic Berger is played out amongst a group of New York drop-outs called The Tribe, with a foreign war looming. The musical has a book and lyrics by Gerome Ragni and James Rado and music by Galt MacDermot.

ALSO ON THURSDAY (previews from 14 September), First World War drama Journey's End, about life on the front line, returns to the West End at its fourth address, the New Ambassadors (See News, 18 Apr 2005). RC Sheriff's classic, based on his own experience in the trenches, follows a group of officers positioned behind British lines at St Quentin, France, and awaiting their fate.

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- by Caroline Ansdell