Arts and Entertainment
 

No shortage of thought and effort has gone into making this updated working of the Arthurian legend more than just a hot afternoon or evening at the theatre.

The Greek Passion, Royal Opera House, London

Heaven and earth show

Murderous desire to dance the salsa

Nichola McAuliffe is thrilled to be putting on the razzle-dazzle in a dramatic blend of salsa and song

Theatre: How to reduce grown men to tears

Kathryn Hunter has played King Lear. So the 11-year-old lead in Spoonface Steinberg should be a piece of cake. By Dominic Cavendish

You Ask The Questions: (Such as: Ned Sherrin, legendary raconteur, are any of your anecdotes actually true?)

NED SHERRIN, 68, was born in Low Ham, Somerset. He trained as a lawyer at Oxford University, where he became involved with the theatre. He began his career producing for ATV in Birmingham and has since worked in film production and has acted for TV and the stage. He received an Olivier Award for directing The Ratepayer's Iolanthe. He presents Loose Ends on Saturdays on Radio 4 and is director of the musical comedy A Saint She Ain't, opening on 22 September at the Apollo Theatre, London.

Critics' choice: Goodness gracious me - they're on the road

Before Goodness Gracious Me was a huge hit on Radio 4 and BBC2, Asian comedy was widely perceived as a contradiction in terms. "People used to think Asians weren't funny," sighs Anil Gupta, the producer of the acclaimed Asian sketch show and director of the spin-off stage production which makes its debut this week. "They'd say, 'black people can be funny - look at Lenny Henry - but where are the Asian comedians?' I remember sitting in one meeting at the BBC and someone said, 'we never see Chinese comedians - maybe they're not funny'. I thought, 'what? You've just written off a nation of a billion people'." Of course, Goodness Gracious Me - performed by Meera Syal, Sanjeev Bhasker, Kulvinder Ghir and Nina Wadia (above) - has helped explode these stereotypes. It successfully mocks both white British (with such memorable sketches as the drunken Indian yobs "going for an English" after a booze-up and insulting the waiters) and the Asians (in characters such as the Kapoors, the wannabe middle-class family who are determined to be more English than the English and demand that their name by pronounced "Cooper"). These kind of figures should flourish in the live arena. But why has it taken so long for this rich vein of humour to be tapped? "My pet theory is that it's the second generation coming of age," says Gupta. "Our parents' generation came over in the 1960s, and the immigrant mentality was to keep their heads down and work hard. The second generation are luckier; we are integrated, we have been born here. Our generation feel more confident of our identity. I don't have a problem with my duality, and I don't want to be an accountant. Writing jokes wasn't an option before - although now all we do is write jokes about accountants, so perhaps we haven't escaped yet." (Goodness Gracious Me UK Tour: Leicester De Montfort Hall (0116 233 3111), Fri and Sat; York Barbican (01904 656688), Sun 21 Feb; and touring to 19 Mar. Information hotline: 0891 455 484.) JAMES RAMPTON

theatre: the street of crocodiles

One of the many remarkable visual strokes in theatre de complicite's The Street of Crocodiles (right) involves a man walking down a wall, a stunt which gives the audience the weird impression that they have an overhead view of the man walking along a pavement. This bifocal image neatly encapsulates the critical response to the show, which interweaves the life and surreal work of the Polish-Jewish writer, Bruno Schulz. Most loved the fluid, dream-like presentation (it got four Olivier Award nominations), but some wondered whether there was anything more to it than met than eye. That was in 1992 - since then it has been extensively toured and reworked, making its return a source of teeth-gnashing anticipation.

Cast gathers to buy Old Vic

SOME OF the leading lights in British theatre are joining together to try to buy The Old Vic theatre for the nation.

Choice: Opera - Xerxes

Xerxes, The Coliseum, London WC2 (0171-632 8300) 7pm

Review: The good, bad and ugly

Dance: The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Theatre: Good, better or best?

When is a play a play, and is a comedy a play or not? Is a new play the same as a lost or unperformed one? What's the difference between best opera and outstanding achievement in opera? It appears that the organisers of the prestigious Olivier awards are not so sure...

Chicago in for Olivier awards

The two stars of the hit musical Chicago are competing for a best actress prize in the Laurence Olivier Awards. In the nominations announced yesterday Chicago received seven nominations. And its leading ladies Ruthie Henshall and Ute Lemper are both vying for best actress in a musical.

Theatre: Going liberal on the drama

Well-meaning plays with wishy-washy dramatic credentials can leave actors with little to get their teeth into

Dench wins award for a lifetime's work

Dame Judi Dench added yet another award to her collection yesterday. The actress who was licensed to call James Bond "a sexist, misogynist dinosaur and a relic of the Cold War" when she played his boss in Goldeneye, was honoured for her lifetime's work at the Women in Film and Television Awards.
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