Independence day meets the birth of a nation

7th February 2003 at 00:00
Colourful spectacle and fast-moving action head this week's highlights from Heather Neill

Indian epic

How do you put Salman Rushdie's sprawling, comic but serious, satirical but fantastical, personal and historic account of India's independence and the bloody founding of Pakistan and Bangladesh on stage? Tim Supple's production of Midnight's Children for the RSC, using an adaptation by the author, dramaturge Simon Reade and Supple himself, fills the stage with colour, incident, eccentric characters, old newsreel film, fantasy videos, sex, death and magic.

Sometimes the mixture is so rich that it is difficult to follow the various narrative lines - blink and there's been a massacre or a marriage has come and gone - but Zubin Varla, as Saleem, the big-nosed hero, manages to sustain his mercurial character throughout, scarcely leaving the stage in more than three hours. The programme provides helpful timelines and family trees. At the Barbican in London (020 7638 8891), then, from April 15 - after visiting Michigan and New York - in Aberdeen, Nottingham, Birmingham, Bath, Leeds, Milton Keynes, Norwich, Salford Quays and Glasgow. RSC ticket hotline: 0870 609 1110. Information: www.midnightschildren.com.

Leicester laughter

Meet Otis Lee Crenshaw (aka comedian Rich Hall) on February 12 at the Haymarket Theatre during the 10th Leicester Comedy Festival. A jailbird, married seven times, always to women called Brenda, he sings in Tom Waits style, drinks and chats up the audience. The festival begins this evening with a week of talent nights, then Iranian Omid Djalili and popular stand-up Jeremy Hardy are billed for February 13 and 14. Tickets: 0116 253 9797.

Jacobean horror

The Duchess of Malfi, Webster's account of court corruption, incestuous jealousy and death in various guises, including by poisoned Bible, still has the power to chill, but in Phyllida Lloyd's modern dress production at the National Theatre, alienation is the key rather than claustrophobic terror. Dead characters sit, ghostly, on steps behind the action in a minimalist set that uses a perspex screen for reflection and projection. Janet McTeer comes into her own when bereft and imprisoned while Will Keen's febrile Ferdinand is a frightening study of power in the hands of a madman. Tickets: 020 7452 3000. Tour, March 18-April 5: Salford, Malvern and Edinburgh.

Tickling videos

ArtSway in Sway, Hampshire, has an unusual show on this month.

Charlie Murphy is fascinated by the tactile relationships exhibited between humans and animals, from tickling trout (a method of catching fish said to involve "a hypnotic predation by seduction") to a pet's reaction to stroking. His videos in The Art of Tickling Trout and other Sensual Pleasures will be on show until March 2. Information: 01590 682260.

All-singing, all-dancing

ShivaNova begin their tour of Flying High With Dance tonight at the Gulbenkian Theatre in Canterbury. New work by Indian-born composer Priti Paintal, mixing jazz, classical and world music styles, blends with live dance and interactive video installations. Tickets: 01227 769075.

Information about the tour and ShivaNova's latest CD: www.shivanova.com.

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