News Kate Winslet has threatened  Fathers4Justice with legal action after the group targeted her in a planned campaign that attacked her children’s living arrangements.

The actress has instructed her solicitors Schillings to issue the parents’ rights activists with a legal letter

Theatre; THE GLASS MENAGERIE, Donmar Warehouse, London

The timing is exquisite. First you announce that your unfunded theatre is facing the threat of imminent closure (owners no longer prepared to underwrite losses, three-year sponsorship deal with a TV company coming to its close). The next day, you unveil a well-nigh flawlessly lovely production of The Glass Menagerie, thereby offering a piercing reminder of the quality of work that London would lose if the Donmar Warehouse under Sam Mendes were allowed to go dark.

Private vices on parade

Theatre

Down and out in . . . London

WHILE fun-loving customers are packing into Sam Mendes' production of Oliver! for a picturesque fairy-tale on crime and poverty, the real London underworld now emerges at Mendes' own theatre in Phyllida Lloyd's production of The Threepenny Opera.

STAGE ACTOR OF THE YEAR : Growing up in public

The most popular film-maker in history got into history, and stayed popular. Glyndebourne rose again, handsomely. Pop ate itself, but survived. Steve Coogan was everywhere, and so was Hugh Grant; only one of them is praised here. The theatre had a thin time, but television drama serials made up for it. People defined themselves on Mondays at 9pm: were you for `Cracker' or `Chuzzlewit'? And again on Saturdays at 8pm: did you really believe that a 14m-1 shot would win?(Or did you do it for love of the arts?) It wasn't the best of years, but it had its moments. And here they are, in the fourth annual `IoS' Awards

Centrefold: Let's Twist again: Wanted: small, very cheeky boys who consider themselves at home on stage

Being an artful dodger is not usually a quality in boys that endears them to adults, but tomorrow Sam Mendes is desperate to see as many little urchins as possible. The theatre director is still searching for boys to play the part of the wiley pickpocket in his production of Lionel Bart's Oliver], opening at the London Palladium in November. Jonathan Pryce plays Fagin and previous auditions (right) have yielded workhouse boys, Fagin's gang and even Olivers (all parts are cast four times, as actors under 14 are not permitted to work more than 40 days a year). The Artful Dodger, however, has proved more elusive.' The Artful Dodger has to be technically more adept,' Mendes explains. 'He has to be world weary at 13 or 14 - have the quality of an old man combined with youth.' So Mendes is reviewing the situation and holding open auditions for the part at Hackney Empire tomorrow. He says, perhaps somewhat rashly, that 'all-comers are welcome'. Those interested in auditioning need to look between 10 and 14 years of age, and they need to be able to sing, but that stipulation aside, there is no ideal candidate - boys can be any size or shape, and from any ethnic background. They don't need to be at drama school, and they certainly don't need to be a Jack Wilde lookalike. They just have to consider themselves dodgy.

THEATRE / A little shop of sorrows

IT'S EASY to see why Fiddler on the Roof has lasted so well - big songs, big star, heart-warming story - and just as easy to see why the equally heart- warming but smaller-scale She Loves Me, by the same team of Jerry Bock (music) and Sheldon Harnick (words) has been forgotten since its first run in 1963. But as Scott Ellis's production at the Savoy proves, being less memorable isn't the same thing as being less good.

THEATRE / Ariel vision: Paul Taylor on Sam Mendes's production of The Tempest at the Barbican

When Sam Mendes's production of The Tempest opened at Stratford last summer, it seemed likely to go down in history as the one in which Ariel, once granted freedom, spat contemptuously in Prospero's face. This climactic outburst has gone from the London transfer, where the tricksy spirit confines himself to a single backward glance full of inscrutable disdain at his former master. Not that the rest of their relationship has exactly softened. Mao-suited, white- faced, eerily inhuman, Simon Russell Beale's mesmeric Ariel still pads about like some alien, cagily superior butler to Alec McCowen's donnish, dapper, damagingly underdriven Prospero.

THEATRE / Putting in a disappearance: Paul Taylor reviews Sam Mendes's production of The Birthday Party at the Lyttelton

The last time I saw Dora Bryan on stage, she was doing the splits in 70, Girls, 70, a musical about feisty oldsters in which the character made a 'posthumous' appearance at the end, crooning along while swinging on a sickle moon. The legs whose spunky agelessness was such a feature of that show now turn up warped and swathed in wrinkly woollen stockings in Sam Mendes's compelling revival of Harold Pinter's The Birthday Party, a play which also, though in a very different way, requires her to grow old disgracefully.

THEATRE / Dangerous Liaisons

WYCHERLEY'S The Country Wife ends in a stalemate. The virtuous Alithea has got rid of her foppish suitor and paired up with a rake instead. Otherwise nothing has changed. Horner, the mock- eunuch, has made two hasty off-stage scores, but paired off with nobody. Sir Jasper still occupies his fool's paradise with the insatiable Lady Fidget. And poor Margery Pinchwife is stuck with her dreadful old husband. All the play does is to lift the lid, and then replace it. An experiment has taken place under controlled conditions; and you can envisage a final scene with Horner in horn- rims delivering his findings on attitudes to drink and sex among London's female gentry of the mid-1670s to a meeting of the Royal Society.

THEATRE / A world lost in the translation: Paul Taylor on a lucid revival of Brian Friel's Translations at the Donmar Warehouse

TACITLY embedded in Brian Friel's Translations is a huge, ironic discrepancy between the way the imagined events would have happened at the time (Ireland, 1833) and their theatrical representation over a century later. For nowadays, English is the language all the participants use - even those playing Irish-speaking Baile Beag locals, who would then have known more words of Greek and Latin, Translations suggests, than of the colonialists' mother-tongue. So, for long stretches of the drama, we have to pretend we are listening to Gaelic when what we are hearing is Irish-English. The play's own medium is a pointed, palpable reminder of where the linguistic and cultural changes, shown here as they are just being broached, eventually led.

THEATRE / A touch of class: Mick Mahoney makes a comeback, a day in the greenhouse for playwrights in Birmingham, and Athol Fugard's Playland reviewed

'So you all want to be playwrights?' said visiting lecturer Arnold Wesker, settling down for a tea-break, his tone one part scoffing to two parts amiable, with a dash of amusement. 'We are playwrights,' snapped one participant in Birmingham University's MA in Playwrighting. Adding to the momentary identity crisis, David Edgar, who pioneered the course three years ago and presides over it in a skinny knitted scarf and with the clucking pride of a new father, refers fondly to his charges as 'my students', while the first letter they receive from the Department runs 'Dear Playwright'. Perhaps, at pounds 2,200 for the fees alone, the least you can expect is a little flattery and some smart marketing.

THEATRE / Bowed, but mostly unbloodied: Rhoda Koenig on Sam Mendes' production of Richard III for the RSC, now transferred to the Donmar Warehouse

FACING her father-in-law's murderer over his corpse, the Lady Anne draws back a shroud to demonstrate that his wounds indeed stream a reproachful red, as they 'open their congeal'd mouths and bleed afresh'. But the gore is an anomaly in Sam Mendes' production of Richard III, which gives us a rather bloodless version of the 'bloody king'.

THEATRE / King of comedy: Paul Taylor reviews Sam Mendes's production of Richard III for the RSC

WITH HIS closely cropped head, bulbous physique and hump, Simon Russell Beale's Richard III looks like the unhappy result of a one night stand between Pere Ubu and Gertrude Stein. In Sam Mendes' fine chamber production (just opened at The Other Place, then touring), we are first aware of him not as a body, however, but as an undefined threat, a sinister creaking noise as he paces about shrouded in darkness. Once illuminated, it could be argued, Beale's Richard is never quite as frightening again, though he does have one or two superb moments in which he makes danger palpable. When his young nephew, York, for example, scrambles on to his hump demanding a piggy- back, Beale allows a long tense pause of barely banked down fury before suddenly complying in a manic parody of high jinks. Terror and eroticism are not the strongest features of his performance, though. What make it memorable and compelling are the outrageous humour and the vividness with which he portrays the king's crack-up when his fortunes turn.
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