Amongst the major London openings taking place this week - the last big blast before the Christmas quiet period - are:

OPENING MONDAY, 15 December 2003 (previews from 10 December), Stephen Lowe's Revelations premieres at north London's Hampstead Theatre, where it continues to 31 January 2004. Directed by Hampstead artistic director Anthony Clark and featuring Gerald Kyd, the new comedy follows four very different couples who meet for the first time on a "Swinging for Beginners" weekend in the Lake District.

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OPENING TUESDAY, 16 December 2003 (previews from 10 December), the South African musical Kat and the Kings returns to north London's Tricycle Theatre (See News, 1 May 2003). When it received its UK premiere at the Tricycle in 1997, the show - which follows the fortunes of a mixed-race band in 1957 apartheid-era Cape Town - was the first South African musical to open in London since the advent of black majority rule in its native country. It later transferred to the West End's Vaudeville Theatre, scooping 1999 Laurence Olivier Awards for Best New Musical as well as Best Actor in a Musical which, uniquely, was awarded to the entire South African cast. The new Tricycle season runs to 8 February 2004.

ALSO ON TUESDAY, at the NT Lyttelton (previews from 10 December), another Olivier Award winner makes a comeback. Matthew Bourne's New Adventures dance theatre production, Play Without Words, inspired by Joseph Losey's The Servant, returns having premiered at the National during last year's Transformation season and winning Oliviers for Best Entertainment and Best Choreographer. It's running in repertory up to 6 March 2004, before embarking on a regional tour (See News, 17 Nov 2003).

OPENING WEDNESDAY, 17 December 2003 (preview 15 December), Anthony Head stars as Captain Hook in a new production of JM Barrie's children's classic Peter Pan at the West End's Savoy Theatre (See News, 1 Sep 2003). Directed by Steven Dexter, the cast also includes David Burt, Jack Chissick, Hadley Fraser and Kathryn Evans. The show is booking until 20 March 2004 and, from 6 January, will be joined in repertory by a cross-cast production of Gilbert and Sullivan operetta The Pirates of Penzance, in which Head plays The Pirate King.

OPENING THURSDAY, 18 December 2003 (previews from 11 December), Joanna Laurens' Christmas-set Five Gold Rings receives its world premiere at north London's Almeida Theatre, where its limited season continues up to 17 January 2004 (See News, 3 Oct 2003). Henry's two sons and their wives come home for Christmas, but the conflicting needs and attitudes of the family make for an explosive Yule. Artistic director Michael Attenborough directs the five-strong cast of David Calder, Will Keen, Damian Lewis (Band of Brothers, The Forsyte Saga), Helen McCrory and Indira Varma.

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NOTE: Following technical difficulties, the opening of Nicholas Wright's two-part stage adaptation of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials, originally scheduled at the NT Olivier for Saturday 20 December 2003, has been postponed until Saturday 3 January 2004 (See News, 8 Dec 2003).

- by Terri Paddock