Amongst the major London openings taking place this week are:

OPENING TUESDAY, 25 November 2003 (previews from 20 November), After Miss Julie, Patrick Marber's version of August Strindberg's 1888 clash of the classes classic, receives its stage premiere at the Donmar Warehouse. Relocated to an English country house in July 1945 on the night of the British Labour Party's election victory, Kelly Reilly and Richard Coyle play master and servant Julie and John, with Cold Feet's Helen Baxendale as Christine. Directed by artistic director Michael Grandage, it continues to 7 February 2004.

OPENING WEDNESDAY, 26 November 2003 (previews from 17 November) David Hare's 1988 play The Secret Rapture is revived at the West End's Lyric Theatre, where it's booking up to 21 February 2004 (See News, 22 Oct 2003). Guy Retallack's new production stars Belinda Lang and Jenny Seagrove as estranged sisters who forge an uneasy reconciliation after the death of their father. The cast also features Peter Egan and Liza Walker. When its first incarnation (directed by Hare himself) transferred to Broadway, the play famously sparked off a war of words between the playwright and legendary New York Times critic Frank Rich.

OPENING THURSDAY, 27 November 2003 (previews from 17 November), Helen Mirren returns to the National Theatre to star in Howard Davies' much-anticipated staging of Eugene O'Neill epic Mourning Becomes Electra, which runs in repertory at the NT Lyttelton, where it's booking until 20 January 2004 (See News, 9 Sep & 13 Jun 2003).

Written in 1939, Mourning Becomes Electra is a trilogy loosely based on Aescylus' The Oresteia. In New England just after the Civil War, Ezra Mannon's return from the field of battle sweeps an entire family into a violent spiral of revenge. Jealousy and desire are unleashed when Lavinia discovers that her mother, the intoxicating Christine Mannon, has dared to take a young lover.

The cast also includes Eve Best, Paul Hilton, Paul McGann, Clarke Peters and Dominic Rowan. An associate at the National, Davies also famously directed the Almeida's multi-award-winning 1998 revival of O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh, starring Kevin Spacey.

ALSO ON THURSDAY (previews from 26 November), Out of Joint's acclaimed production of Duck, by first-time writer Stella Feehily, comes to the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Upstairs as part of a UK-wide tour. Set in Dublin, teenager Cat is the Duck of the title, so-called by her nightclub-owning boyfriend because she's got big feet. Out of Joint artistic director Max Stafford-Clark directs the co-production, which continues to 10 January 2004.

- by Terri Paddock