THEATRE: STARRY, STARRY NIGHTS

Dear Reader, you're in good company. At least one Oscar winner regularly devours the Independent's arts pages. Of course you will airily dismiss such tittle-tattle but secretly you're praying that this gifted individual is none other than the sainted Sally "You love me, you really, really love me" Field. She, the former Flying Nun for those of you with long memories, may well be a long-distance subscriber, but no, the person I'm thinking of lives closer to home. Last year, said individual was within a hair's breadth of joining the select band of Oscar winners making the pilgrimage to Islington's Almeida Theatre, not, I suspect, a fate entirely likely to befall Ms Field.

However, as you no doubt know - unless you have spent the last two weeks on retreat in the furthermost reaches of Tibet - Islington's former Literary and Scientific Institution (more recently a music hall, then a Salvation Army citadel, then a repository for carnival novelties run by the fated Mr Betts, who managed to get himself murdered in unseemly circumstances) is currently paying pounds 225 per week for the services of one Juliette Binoche. Having scooped the Academy Award from beneath the poleaxed stare of Lauren Bacall for her frankly radiant performance in The English Patient, Binoche opened there last week in Nicholas Wright's adaptation of Pirandello's Naked.

The play is directed by the Almeida's joint artistic director Jonathan Kent, no stranger to Oscar-holders. Back in 1990, his inaugural production starred Transport Minister Glenda Jackson MP, then a major actress whose mantelpiece (or loo?) was decorated not only by the world's most famous gold statuette for her Gudrun Brangwen in Ken Russell's remarkably faithful film of DH Lawrence's Women in Love in 1969, but also another for her leading role in the romantic comedy A Touch of Class. (Hands up those of you who knew that the latter was financed by the cosmetics firm who gave the world Brut.) Kent later famously directed Ralph Fiennes in both Hamlet and Ivanov. And since we're on the subject, can anyone fathom why Fiennes, twice nominated, for Schindler's List and The English Patient, wasn't up for his intelligent, superbly modulated performance in Robert Redford's scandalously underrated Quiz Show?

Kent's future plans include directing Fiennes as both Richard II and Coriolanus in two of Shakespeare's most fascinating and opposed studies of power. You'll have to wait until 1999 for this dynamite double-header, but anyone in search of starry, starry nights need not resort to astronomy. The Almeida is decamping to the Playhouse Theatre for David Hare's next play The Judas Kiss starring nominee Liam Neeson and Peter Capaldi, who won the Best Short Feature Oscar for his film Franz Kafka's It's A Wonderful Life.

Back in Islington, Kevin "The Usual Suspects" Spacey will lead Howard Davies's new production of Eugene O'Neill's bar-room epic The Iceman Cometh.

It's not just the Almeida which holds the monopoly on prizewinners. This autumn, Judi Dench will star in Filumena at the Piccadilly. As long as the 1,000-strong Academy voting panel aren't blinded by either patriotism (in which case the sole American contender Helen Hunt will win) or priapism (cue Helena Bonham Carter) come 25 March, Dame Judi is poised to join this select band. Here's hoping.

Almeida, Islington N1 (0171-359 4404). Day seats & returns only

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