Between ahard man and a soft toy

23rd May 2003 at 01:00
Shakespeare's soldier king meets Shirley Hughes's dog-eared plaything in this week's highlights from Heather Neill

Jeeps and all

It is quite a shock when Penny Downie, Chorus in Nicholas Hytner's Henry V - his first National Theatre production as artistic director - speaks the familiar opening lines, "Oh for a muse of fireI". 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. Only the means of warfare change; its brutality, the camaraderie of soldiers and the thin line between summary justice and war crime remain the same. Hytner cleverly shows, without distorting the text, the extent to which politicians now use populist media and are themselves influenced by them. Adrian Lester's Henry is intelligent, religious, charismatic, a true soldier, almost frighteningly unsentimental. 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.

Children's 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.

Artist on show

The touring exhibition on Shirley Hughes goes back to the artist's roots at the refurbished Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool. Shirley Hughes - Alfie, Dogger amp; Friends includes drawings and paintings with material from last year's autobiography, A Life Drawing (Jonathan Cape).

Children's activities include gallery trails and the chance to dress up as Hughes's characters. Elaine Ansell, lecturer in children's literature at Liverpool John Moores University, will talk about the beginning of children's book publishing on May 29. Tel: 0151 478 4199; www.thewalker.org.uk.

Let's face the music

Creative Factory is a group of 50 young people of varied musical experience who will perform in a concert as part of the Bath Festival on May 31 at the Pavilion. The music - from classical to rock, Ramp;B to hip-hop - will have been created during an intensive week at the Wiltshire Music Centre in Bradford-on-Avon with the support of tutors from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Information: www.creativefactory.org.uk.

Friend on stage

Only dedicated Matthew Perry and Minnie Driver fans need go to the Comedy Theatre in London for David Mamet's Sexual Perversity in Chicago. Sporadically witty about 1970s sexual attitudes, but fragmented and thin, it's a poor showcase for its stars. Tickets: 020 7369 1731.

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