Athens or Orlando?

Judith Palmer takes wing to Ancient Greece by way of Bloomsbury.

Birds over Britain

"The Birds touches on all of the things people are worried about at the moment, such as xenophobia, obsessions with borders, globalisation and the housing shortage," says Sean O'Brien, author of a new verse version of the ancient Greek comedy that premieres at the National Theatre this week.

It's the story of a couple of wide boys who leave Athens in search of a life of ducking and diving without civil obligations, taxes or laws, and find themselves in the kingdom of the birds - the original cloud cuckoo land. Here they attempt to feather their nests with a bit of airborne property speculation, and a scam to charge anyone who wants to travel through their airspace.

Directed by Theatre de Complicite's Kathryn Hunter, this ribald (and fowl-mouthed) romp employs the skills of circus company Mamaloucos, whose acrobats and aerialists form the flock of albatrosses, vultures and hoopoes. Performances take place under canvas in a big top.

In London, until August 14. Tel: 020 7452 3000. Then touring to Salford, Bristol, Telford, Beverley and Brighton; www.mamaloucos.com.

Life is tweet

As Aristophanes said: "But now the coming thing's birdolatry, And everybody simply wants to be A bird. They walk and think and talk like birds - So much so that they've abandoned words In favour of the various species' songs."

Artist Marcus Coates has created Flock, an entrancing video piece for Wysing Arts in Cambridgeshire, in which he uses digital technology to deconstruct and reconstruct British birdsong. The songs of 86 species of birds were slowed down until they were at the same pitch range as the human voice. Coates then recorded himself singing the complex patterns of tweets and quacks, and sped up the sound again. The result is so uncannily accurate you wouldn't believe it emerged from a human throat. The added joy is that while Coates trills away in the video, his facial gestures become beguilingly bird-like.

In the accompanying gallery, Canadian artist Bill Burns has accumulated a selection of birdy items. There's a free family workshop on July 27 (2pm), building humorous homes for perching birds.

At Wysing Arts, Bourn, Cambridge, until August 31. Tel: 01954 718881; www.wysing.demon.co.uk.

Woolf's world

"Why should a book inspired by outdated upper-class grandeur and middle-aged passion turn out to be an innovative masterpiece?", asks Jeanette Winterson, writer and presenter of a new BBC documentary on Virginia Woolf's Orlando. Winterson gives a thoughtful and passionate account of the biographical facts which lie behind Woolf's transformative novel, backed-up by Peter Ackroyd, Sally Potter and Vita Sackville-West's son Nigel Nicolson. Concluding the Art that Shook the World series, playwright Girish Karnad assesses the continuing impact on Indian society of the epic poem "Bhagavad Gita". Art that Shook the World, BBC2: Orlando, July 27, 7.05pm; The Bhagavad Gita, August 10, 7.20pm.

Feet first

Stamping Ground is Nottinghamshire's fortnight-long festival of dance workshops from July 27 to August 9. The family-oriented programme offers one-hour taster sessions of dance styles from tango to tap, and a Bollywood dance and film day. Events for adults, children and seniors in venues throughout Nottingham and the county. Tel: 0115 9123400; www.dance4.co.uk.

Tourist trail

Strange Lands is a futuristic play looking at the possible effects of tourism on Cornwall, at Hall for Cornwall in Truro. There is still space for a few more 12 to 25-year-olds to join the huge cast and backstage crew. Rehearsals are for two weeks from August 5, with performances on August 16 and 17. Tel:01872 262466 www.hallforcornwall.co.uk.

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