Coming Soon: Spring fever hits Chichester

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The Independent Culture

Spring heralds the start of the Chichester Festival, unusually early this year. Let's hope this coincides with theatre-lovers shaking off their wintry hacking coughs, even if sore throats and sneezes ought to continue on stage with Hay Fever (pictured, 01243 781 312, 9 Apr to 2 May) and The Last Cigarette (11 Mar to 11 Apr).

The line-up is strong, with Diana Rigg in the droll Noël Coward play, and with Richard Eyre directing Felicity Kendal and Nicholas Le Prevost in Simon Gray's own dramatisation of his Smoking Diaries, completed just before his death last year.

Alternatively, your fancy may be tickled by the Royal Court's Wallace Shawn season in London. Clare Higgins plays the rich, ailing Westerner in The Fever (020-7565 5000, 2 Apr to 2 May), then Miranda Richardson stars in Grasses of a Thousand Colours: a new dark comedy about a scientist tinkering with nature (12 May to 13 Jun).

An outbreak of promising premieres includes Polly That Face Stenham's second drama, Tusk Tusk, about adolescents home alone (Royal Court, 28 Mar to 2 May). At the Almeida, Ian Rickson directs Jez Butterworth's comeback, Parlour Song, a twisted comedy about a bored married couple (020-7359 4404, 19 Mar to 9 May). Also, Kilburn's Tricycle Theatre ambitiously presents a surge of 15 plays about Afghanistan, collectively entitled The Great Game, with contributions from Richard Bean, David Edgar and David Greig (020-7328 1000, 17 Apr to 14 Jun).

If you love star-studded modern classics, Waiting for Godot is touring and transfers to London's Haymarket Theatre at the end of April, with Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart (0845 481 1870). Meanwhile, Michael Grandage gets risqué in his Donmar West End season at Wyndham's, with Judi Dench in Yukio Mishima's 1965 drama Madame de Sade (0870 060 6624, 13 Mar to 23 May).

For the habitually offbeat, the following should all be enticing. Experimental writer Anthony Neilson's latest, Edward Gant's Amazing Feats of Loneliness, is touring and will transfer to London's Soho Theatre (020-7478 0100, 31 Mar to 11 Apr). At Plymouth's Drum Theatre, Chris Goode is devising an intriguing biodrama, King Pelican, about the Victorian poet Edward Lear (01752 267222, 5 to 21 Mar). Finally, Improbable's new piece Panic (West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds, 0113-213 7700, 1 to 9 Apr, and the Pit, London, 020-7638 8891, 15 Apr to 16 May) involves brown paper, projections and obsessions.

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