The Independent Recommends

EASILY THE best reason to see Lost in Space (left) is Norman Garwood's dazzling production design. Every surface seems spongy; tabletops appear soft enough to sink your fingers into. Rubber - and rubber effect - is very big in the future: the plates of the body armour look as if they would protect you from sexually transmitted diseases but not much else. And it is a nice gag, too, that a film about a man (William Hurt) struggling to be tactile with his own children should have sets and costumes that you want to reach out and squeeze.

On general release

The Thief is the story of a six-year-old boy whose mother falls for a con-man posing as a soldier in 1952 Russia. What makes the picture worth seeing is the acting. The young Misha Philipchuk is unusual among child actors - his performance grows and matures palpably as the picture progresses.

On selected release

Theatre Dominic Cavendish

FOR THEIR next trick, Hamish McColl and Sean Foley (aka The Right Size), have taken on Brecht's satire about a drunken landowner and his disgruntled chauffeur, Mr Puntila and His Man Matti (below). The result is not only

cheek-achingly funny, but a brain-tickling teaser about the nature of man. No really.

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh (0131-228 1404) 11am

Asylum Theatre company have dug up a little-known text by Samuel Beckett, All Strange Away, and made it work on stage. A clinical-yet-lyrical monologue about imagination and absence, it receives a faultless performance from Mark Stuart Currie.

Pleasance, Edinburgh

(0131-556 6550) 1pm

Pop Tim Perry

GIVEN THAT she's not been on a UK tour for almost three years now, this has been a busy week for PJ Harvey (right). At the weekend, Polly and folks played V98, while tonight she's headlining at this Flux Festival show. A new album is on its way soon, so there should be lots of new material and quite possibly another dramatic image change.

Jaffa Cake, Edinburgh (0131-226 5138) 8pm

Another outfit who play far too rarely are Cincinnati's Afghan Whigs, and they promise two intimate shows before appearing at Reading 98 this weekend. As well as those cultured but abrasive favourites from their back catalogue, they'll be previewing material from their forthcoming album, 1965. Instead of a support band there will be a short newsreel film entitled "1965", put together by singer Greg Dulli, while Pork Recordings DJs set the mood at Reading and a "very special DJ" will hit the decks in London.

Alleycat, Reading (0118-956 1116) tonight; Subterania, London W10

(0181-960 4590) tomorrow

Classical Duncan Hadfield

MAYBE IN terms of value for money, a concert comprising one single 65- minute work doesn't sound like an obvious major choice - but such considerations don't apply when the work is Beethoven's mighty 9th Symphony (Choral). The performers are none other than the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Claudio Abbado, and a glittering quartet of vocal soloists including bass-baritone Bryn Terfel (below).

Usher Hall, Edinburgh (0131-473 2000) 8pm

Dynamic young virtuoso pianist Evgeny Kissin arrives at the Proms today to tackle a concerto which might be nicknamed "The Sledgehammer", owing to the brute force it requires - Prokofiev's No 2. Perhaps Kissin's touch will be subtler than the norm. He joins Russian compatriots the St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Yuris Temirkanov.

Royal Albert Hall, London SW7 (0171-583 8212) 7.30pm

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