Satire and stereotyping set the scene

Prepare for a blast - from the past and into the future, writes Heather Neill


The National Youth Theatre has taken up residence at the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith with two contrasting offerings. The Threepenny Opera in the main house, the Bertolt BrechtKurt Weill take on the popular 18th-century The Beggar's Opera, has been updated to include modern gangsta types, but the songs are as good and the satire as keen as ever. If the singing is uneven and the sound generally less earthy than Weill might seem to demand, this young cast show tremendous energy and humour. The low-life characters, tarts and hoods are nicely distinguished and there are excellent performances from some of the lead players, including Jo Nesbitt as Polly and Lucy Voller as Jenny, a madame with a heart, if sometimes a treacherous one.

In the Studio, a separate cast present their devised piece inspired by a real incident. Law student Adeel Akhtar caused a diplomatic incident simply by flying to Canada last September: Canadian and United States air forces intercepted his plane assuming he might be a terrorist. The resulting piece, a dissertation on identity and stereotyping, with some Pirandellian touches, never gels , but it has some gem-like moments. The impromptu air hostess pop group and a "cleaner" with a thousand voices are especially memorable. The Arbitrary Adventures of an Accidental Terrorist, until September 14. Tickets: 020 8741 2311.

Ecclesiastical installation

What would St Augustine say? 18:1-7, The Crypt, by James Cattell, will be on show in Canterbury cathedral for a week from tomorrow. A projection of a two-month-old child combined with the sound and vibration of the human voice will transform the medieval environment. A week of workshops and discussions, including a multi-faith recognition of September 11, will accompany the installation. For more information, tel: 07939043915.

Chinese culture

From October 1 until January 2003, the Museum of Asian Art in Bath will present Ming: the Chinese Renaissance. The Ming dynasty, famous for its literature, painting and ceramics, was founded in 1368 and saw 300 years of cultural change with advances in technology, the revival of ancient customs, the introduction of schools and the building of the Great Wall. Information about the exhibition and related events: 01225 464640.

Palestinian documentary

As September 11 looms, the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London presents John Pilger's documentary Palestine is Still the Issue, including interviews with Palestinians and the Israelis who support them. Followed by a question session with Pilger. September 9. Tickets: 020 7930 3647;

Intergalactic rock tour

Return to the Forbidden Planet, the cult rock musical based on The Tempest and Fifties sci-fi, returns next week. Blasting off at the Queen's Theatre, Hornchurch, on September 12, this new production will visit venues from Aberdeen to Dublin, High Wycombe and Derby, before December. Information: 01708 443333.

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