THEATRE / The hostess with the mostest: Paul Taylor welcomes the return to the stage of Helen Mirren in Bill Bryden's finely acted West End production of Turgenev's A Month in the Country

A playgoer coming blind to A Month in the Country might think that he'd chanced on a piece by some highly gifted disciple of Chekhov.

INTERVIEW / Oh, to be over there and overpaid: Here, she's highly acclaimed; in Hollywood she's nobody. How can they snub Helen Mirren?

She was on the phone as we entered her flat, talking to some girl friend. 'Must go, I've got six men here.'

Long Runners: No 19: Jackanory

Age: 28. Actor Lee Montague, parked uneasily on a wrought-iron garden bench, read the first story, Cap of Rushes, just before Christmas 1965.

Review / Big guns lined up for Christmas assault

YOU CAN tell we're getting ready for the big push because the scheduling generals are starting to fire their heavy artillery - television howitzers which will soften up the audience ready for that final Christmas Day assault. You can hear the sound of firing across the channels - a rumble like distant thunder that tells you the poor blighters on BBC 1 are really copping it from a merciless barrage of holly-sprigged trailers and blockbuster movies. They let fly with Batman on Sunday night but this is a war of attrition, not strategy, and ITV isn't short of fire power itself. Four solid hours of Prime Suspect 3 (with 'Eat turkey, Yentob' chalked on the side) was its swift response.

Where bigotry is part of the job: A policewoman tells of victory over racial and sexual abuse

UNDER the terms of a pounds 32,500 settlement, Sarah Locker cannot discuss her allegations of sexual and racial discrimination against fellow police officers. Much of their substance, however, is already known.

Arts: Overheard

I never really liked her brutality or her selfishness . . . But I do approve of the way she walks on men and uses them, which is what men often do to women.

CINEMA / The Hawk that refused to take off

'SOMEBODY'S husband, somebody's son' was how the police chief hunting the Yorkshire Ripper described his quarry. The phrase - an attempt to put a human face on inhuman acts - was the title of Gordon Burn's account of the Ripper, and now inspires a new British thriller, The Hawk (15).

FILM / Clarity begins at home: Sheila Johnston on Helen Mirren in the serial chiller The Hawk, plus the week's other releases - The Hawk (15) Director: David Hayman (Br); Bound and Gagged (18) Director: Daniel B Appleby (US); Tale of the Fox Director: Wladyslaw Starewicz (Fr)

Could someone you love be a killer?' The Hawk's (15) hook is not startlingly original - Hollywood, especially Joe Eszterhas in films like Jagged Edge, The Music Box and Betrayed, has milked this idea to the last drip. Format film- making can be no bad thing, of course, but The Hawk is simply incompetent. It's a dull, botched and, alas, British movie.

Media: Acting tough with intent: She's back, this time with the vice squad in Soho. David Lister interviews Helen Mirren, cult heroine of ITV's 'Prime Suspect'

Helen Mirren gazed from the window of the presidential suite on the 26th floor at the Hilton Hotel on to a perfect view of the gardens of Buckingham Palace.

INTERVIEW / DCI Jane Tennison? Yes, that was me: 'Prime Suspect' was far more than mere TV for Jackie Malton, on whose rebellious career Helen Mirren's detective was based

ON MY WAY to interview Detective Chief Inspector Jackie Malton, one of the highest ranking women in the Metropolitan police, it struck me that I looked like an off-duty policewoman myself. Polished navy flatties, navy tights and skirt, discreetly checked camel and navy jacket . . . hang on, I thought, I don't usually dress like this: what am I doing?

The force that is never ashamed of itself

A FRIEND of mine called Winston wanted to be an electrician or a detective when he grew up. I used to think what audacious ambitions for a 12-year-old black boy from Hackney. I wanted to be a hairdresser when I was his age.

ITN news to change in new year

ITV's NEWS AT TEN, whose relaunch with one presenter last month has been a critical and ratings failure, is to be changed again in the new year. The newscaster, Trevor McDonald, will stay, but Julia Somerville's thrice-weekly 'Focus on Britain' segment is likely to be dropped, writes Michael Leapman.

THEATRE / The finger of suspicion: Jeffrey Wainwright reviews an adaptation of The Moonstone at the Royal Exchange, Manchester

AFTER a while, the mind starts looking for amiable distractions. Here, Mr Betteredge's grog-jug came to the rescue not only of the distraught Franklin Blake, just back from a nasty experience on the quicksands, but of this reviewer as well. Solid, endlessly serviceable, even elegant in an utterly unpretentious way and providing a satisfying clunk on a deal tabletop, it might even be seen as the very emblem of the 19th-century novel. I think people might go to see theatre versions of books like The Moonstone just to catch sight of such utensils.

TELEVISION / All spelt out in black and white

DCI TENNISON was taking down DS Oswalde's particulars when the phone rang. She didn't hesitate. She was out of bed and off to head the murder inquiry before you could say 'How was it for you?'. The killer's identity was not the only thing that needed proving in Prime Suspect 2 (ITV). There was Tennison trying to prove herself in a man's world, and the black DS Oswalde proving himself in a white one. Tennison may have been hiding her heart in a bullet-proof vest for professional reasons, but the thriller was wearing its themes on its sleeve.
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