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Film: Ryan Gilbey

MOST OF the heroines in Disney's recent animated features have felt like one-woman apologies for the docile female stereotypes previously promoted by the studio. In Mulan (left), a girl disguises herself as a soldier to spare her ailing father from certain death in combat. This set-up has got it all. A pro-active heroine who doesn't want to tend to a man or pet woodland animals; a strong father-and-daughter relationship; honour and nobility; and, of course, cross-dressing. Moderately risky fun for all the family.

On limited release

Shekhar Kapur's film Elizabeth is about a female figurehead (played by Cate Blanchett) struggling to gain purchase in a patriarchal society. It is at its most challenging as it traces the hardening of Elizabeth's soul, even as it encourages us to cheer on her triumphs.

On general release

Theatre: Dominic Cavendish

WHAT NICK GROSSO will write about when he hits 30 is a mystery, but in the meantime he continues to trade on the insider knowledge of twenty- something lad culture that made Peaches and Sweetheart so monosyllabically spot on. Liza Walker and Joseph Fiennes (below) star in Real Classy Affair, a snappy number about a north London geezer who appals his mates by setting up a bistro in Streatham. Now previewing.

Royal Court Theatre Upstairs at the Ambassadors, London WC2 (0171-565 5000) 7.45pm

Frank Vickery's Pullin' the Wool is a fast and funny rollercoaster comedy about house-buying which confirms that, unlike the housing market, Welsh theatre is on the up and up.

Sherman Theatre, Cardiff (01222 230451) 7.30pm

Literature: Judith Palmer

IT WAS a dark and stormy night... And Richard Davenport-Hines, Rosemary Hill and Tom Holland leapt from the shadows for an evening of Gothic Pleasures (tonight 9.30pm) at the Cheltenham Festival. The team charts the blackest excesses of the human imagination, from The Rocky Horror Show back to the creepy tales thrown up by the eruption of Vesuvius in 1631.

Reasons to be cheerful part I - Ian Dury (8pm) joins drug-smuggler Howard Marks (6.30pm, right) and crazy old flame-head Arthur Brown (9.30pm) for tomorrow's investigations into the literature of rock'n'roll.

The festival closes on Sunday, pitting AA Milne against Lawrence, Waugh, Huxley and Woolf for a fanciful Booker Prize of 1928 (8.45pm).

Cheltenham Festival of Literature (01242 227979) to 18 Oct

Comedy: James Rampton

NOT EVERYONE goes on RTE's Late, Late Show and causes the studios to be picketed, but that's exactly what happened when comedian Tommy Tiernan (below) appeared on Ireland's top talk show and joked about the Lamb of God and the Crucifixion. Now, this engaging stand-up has turned the incident into just one of many yarns he spins in his Perrier Award-winning show, Undivine Comedy. He will be supported on Sunday by the delightfully surreal Mighty Boosh, in which Julian Barratt and Noel Fielding play two zookeepers who experience a string of zany happenings in an enchanted forest. Perrier Pick of the Fringe show, Her Majesty's Theatre, London W1 (0171 494 5558) Sun 7.30pm

As her performance as Holly the Computer in the BBC2 sitcom Red Dwarf reminds us, Hattie Hayridge specialises in the deadpan. Downbeat fun.

Chuckle Club, London WC2 (0171-476 1672)

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