THEATRE / Previews and First Nights

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The Independent Culture
IT'S A GREAT BIG SHAME

Mike Leigh's mysterious new play finally hits the stage. Theatre Royal Stratford East E15 (081 534 0310). Opens tonight.

PICKWICK

Harry Secombe as Dickens's eternal optimist. Sadler's Wells EC1 (071 278 8916). Gala opening tonight.

TAMBURLAINE THE GREAT

Antony Sher goes from shepherd to global dictator in Marlowe's hymn to self-improvement. RSC Barbican EC1 (071 638 8891). In preview, opens Thur.

MACHINAL

Fiona Shaw stars in Sophie Treadwell's play, directed by man-of-the-moment Stephen Daldry. NT Lyttelton SE1 (071 928 2033). In preview, opens Fri.

LOOKING THROUGH A GLASS

ONION

Q: What's Australian and lives off dead Beatles? A: John Waters, whose one-man tribute to John Lennon this is. Criterion, Piccadilly Circus W2 (071 839 4488). In preview, opens Mon.

MEDEA

Diana Rigg as legend's most famous infanticide. Wyndhams WC1 (071 867 1116). First preview tonight, opens Tue.

HUGE

King's Head, 119 Upper St N1 (226 1916). First preview Tue, opens Wed 20. See feature p28

SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER

David Essex as Tony Lumpkin. Is there no stopping Sir Peter Hall? Queen's, Shaftesbury Av W1 (071 494 5040). First preview Wed 20.

THE BALD PRIMA DONNA

Ionescu's play performed in Hungarian by Romanians (figure that out), National Theatre of Cluj. Derry, Octoberfest (0504 260516). Opens tonight.

BROTHERS OF THE BUSH

First play by Jimmy Murphy based on his experiences as a house-painter. Dublin, Peacock (010-353 1 874 8222). Opens tonight

THE STRANGE CASE OF DR JEKYLL AND MR HYDE

A new adaptation - the third in recent years - by Robin Brooks, for Stevenson's tale, directed and designed by Jon Pope. Glasgow, Citizens (041-429 0022). Free preview tonight, opens Thur.

PACIFIC OVERTURES

Artistic director Paul Kerryson cements his reputation as the keeper of Sondheim's flame with the composer's American Kabuki musical. Leicester Haymarket, Main stage (0533 539797). Previews from Thur, opens Tue.

HEDDA GABLER

Geraldine James plays opposite Hilton McRae's Lovborg. James and director Joseph Blatchley make their Royal Exchange debuts. Manchester, Royal Exchange (061-833 9833). Opens tonight.

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA

The northern premiere with Dave Willets back in the mask. Manchester Opera House (061-242 2501). Previewing, opens Tue.

NICE GIRLS

Musical documentary play tells of the 80- hour occupation of Trentham Colliery by three women. Newcastle-under-Lyme New Victoria (0782 717962). Opens Wed 20.

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