Spot the stars of the show

18th April 2003 at 01:00
A contemporary classic rubs shoulders with a blonde and the master of suspense in an Easter round-up from Heather Neill.

Art palace

Enter the new Saatchi Gallery from Belvedere Road and you are confronted with a polka-dot Mini apparently trundling downstairs towards you. This seems fitting: the new purpose for the old County Hall (where I was once interviewed as a prospective teacher) on London's South Bank is, on the face of it, incongruous. Establishment-style panelled rooms house some of the most notorious pieces of contemporary art. Not far from the charming Damien Hirst Mini is David Falconer's "Vermin Death Star", for instance, a fibreglass meteor entirely encrusted with freeze-dried rats.

Tracey Emin's bed is here, so is Marcus Harvey's portrait of Myra Hindley decorated with child handprints, and Sarah Lucas's self-portraits (on the lavatory, and sporting a fried egg-adorned bosom), as well as some violent examples of the Chapman brothers' work.

Chris Ofili's contentious (but rather beautiful) elephant dung-decorated picture of "The Holy Virgin Mary", and Marc Quinn's head sculpted out of frozen blood are here too, but the emphasis for now is on Hirst. The shark, the sheep, the sliced cow and the fly-breeding installation are all here, presented in luxurious space.

Those of us confined to offices might respond more to the silently evocative "Love Lost", in which a computer, surgical equipment and an abandoned coffee cup sit in a giant tank full of live fish. Information: 020 7823 2363; www.saatchi-gallery.co.uk.

London theatre

Anyone venturing into theatreland for a holiday treat could do worse than make for the Playhouse Theatre, where Kristin Scott Thomas is playing an intense Masha in Christopher Hampton's lively translation of Chekhov's Three Sisters. Michael Blakemore's production subtly fulfils the playwright's requirement for the mood: "smiling through tears". Tickets: 020 7369 1785.

* At the National's Cottesloe, Owen McCafferty's Scenes from the Big Picture is a theatrical, hard-edged soap set in Belfast. Peter Gill brilliantly directs a whole community - disaffected teenagers, old drunks, drug pushers, adulterers, knee-cappers, rival siblings, bereaved parents and industrial problem-solvers. Tickets: 020 7452 3000.

* At the Royal Court, Bond girl Rosamund Pike plays the body-double blonde from Psycho to William Hootkins's uncanny realisation of Alfred Hitchcock in Terry Johnson's almost too incident-packed but wittily engaging Hitchcock Blonde. David Haig convincingly plays a middle-aged media lecturer obsessed with Hitch - and young blondes. Tel: 020 7565 5000.

Spring is sprung

The University of York's Spring Festival (May 8-11) includes film, puppets and talks, but the focus will be on new music. The festival opens with a day of composers' workshops. Birmingham Contemporary Music Group will perform, among other new pieces, The Theatre of Magical Beings, by Delhi-born composer Param Vir. Information: 01904 432439; www.yorkconcerts.co.uk.

Oh, what a beautiful musical!

The excellent National Youth Music Theatre's acclaimed Oklahoma! will be at the Peacock Theatre Sadler's Wells until April 26. Tickets: 020 7863 8222.

This inspiring company of young performers, many still at school, goes from strength to strength. In August, they will perform Alan Ayckbourn's Orvin - Champion of Champions, specially commissioned by NYMT, in Scarborough.

Information: www.nymt.org.uk.

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