Between a hard man and a soft toy

23rd May 2003 at 01:00

Jeeps and all
It is quite a shock when Penny Downie, Chorus in Nicholas Hytner's Henry V -nbsp;his first National Theatre production as artistic director - speaks the familiar opening lines, "Oh for a muse of fire." She is dressed as a 21st-century administrator preparing for a high-level meeting. The modern trappings are not mere decoration; this production, with its intrusive media and persuasive broadcast speeches, makes clear the timelessness of Shakespeare's play. Tickets: 020 7452 3000.

Bags of books
If it's May, it must be Hay. The Guardian Hay Festival, described by a past visitor, former US president Bill Clinton, as "the Woodstock of the mind", runs from today until June 1. Don DeLillo, Donna Tartt , Margaret Atwood and Ian McEwan vie for attention with Hanif Kureishi (delivering this year's Raymond Williams lecture, "Loose Tongues", about race in the UK) and critics, scientists, new writers, musicians and politicians taking part in a film programme, concerts, debates and talks. ChildrenOs sessions include Michael Rosen performing funny poems for seven-year-olds, illustrator Colin Hawkins, and the chance to meet novelists from Melvin Burgess to Ros Asquith, from Terry Pratchett to Jacqueline Wilson, and new Children's Laureate Michael Morpurgo. www.hayfestival.com .

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