Arts and Entertainment Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins in a scene from 'The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug'

Dir. Peter Jackson;  Starring Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, 161mins

The information on: `King Lear'

What Is It?

Film: Raiders of the lost art

The Big Picture

Film: Gods and mummies

Brendan Fraser's films used to go straight to video (if they were lucky). Working with Ian McKellen changed all that. Well, almost.

McKellen's magnetic role

SIR IAN McKellen (right) is to take a marked change in direction from his usual classical roles. It was revealed in Cannes that he will play the villain in Twentieth Century Fox's X-Men. Sir Ian will play Magneto, Master of Magnetism, in the live-action feature based on the Marvel comics characters who are born with mutated genes that impart superpowers.

SEEN LATELY

STEPHEN POLIAKOFF writer and director

Preview: Theatre - Rose Theatre

"They've discovered the Rose Theatre. Want to have a look?" Stupid question. Back in 1989, no one but Shakespeare scholars knew the precise location of Philip Henslowe's 1587 theatre, home to some of Marlowe's greatest plays. Being the first person - aside from archeologists and Ian McKellen (left) - to stand on the site since the theatre was demolished in 1606 was an extraordinary experience. We even found a clay pipe from Elizabethan days. An campaign was set up to save the site. Alas, an office block put paid to that, but their plans were changed to allow the remains to be preserved. On Wednesday, a sound and light exhibition (narrated by McKellen) opens on the site, to illuminate both the archeological remains and the Rose's invaluable place in theatre history.

Film: Love and death in LA

The Big Picture

Theatre: It'll all end in tirades

PRESENT LAUGHTER WEST YORKSHIRE PLAYHOUSE, LEEDS

First night: A rich portrayal of flamboyant emptiness

`Present laughter' The West Yorkshire Playhouse

The Peter principle

Peter Hall has directed 'The Marriage of Figaro' seven times, and 'Cosi Fan Tutte' five. Now he's doing 'Amadeus' for the third time. Why? Is it for love or money? Interview by Jasper Rees

Open Eye: King Lear on CD-Rom aids understanding

Multimedia opens new perspectives on the context and performance of the classics

Letter: Real theatre

Sir: The Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond, Surrey (neither in central London nor in the regions, alas, so do we count?), has a permanent company of actors, performing plays in repertoire for comparatively short runs. Actors have been put under contract for a year (I hope some may stay longer), and over that time will perform in at least six of the nine plays that go to make up the year's work.

Letter: Exit Sir Ian

Sir: I am a middle-class, middle-aged, white Irishman who was a visitor to London recently. I queued for over two hours for tickets at the Royal National Theatre. I can assure Sir Ian McKellen that I speak and understand English and that I actually appreciated what I saw on stage. For over 25 years I have enjoyed visiting London and its theatres. Sir Ian is biting the hands that feed him.

Has London theatre reached the stage where it can't find a decent audience?

`London Theatre is impersonal. Its audiences are full of tourists; its actors do not have a communal spirit'
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