THE spring season at Malvern Festival Theatre kicks off in hilarious style with Mike Leigh’s now legendary comedy Abigail’s Party on January 15 starring Hannah Waterman (EastEnders).

It’s followed by Agatha Christie’s Go Back For Murder from January 28, two productions heralding a season of diverse drama featuring a host of big names and great writing.

The Almeida Festival’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, from February 12, sees Shakespeare’s comedy magically retold in a production which moves from the modern schoolroom to a fantastical world of princes and lovers, forests and fairies. Sebastian Faulks’s bestselling novel Birdsong, a mesmerising story of love, courage and sacrifice, has been adapted for the stage by Rachel Wagstaff and arrives at Malvern Theatres for six days from March 4.

The hit of the 2012 Edinburgh Festival, Maurice’s Jubilee runs from March 11 starring its author Nichola McAuliffe and Julian Glover. And on March 25 there’s a return for Lee Hall’s The Pitmen Painters.

Following his triumphant performance as Othello in the West End, Lenny Henry comes to Malvern for the first time in a play, taking the lead role in August Wilson’s 1985 play, Fences, winner of the New York Drama Critics’ Award, two Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

The Forum Theatre also enjoys an exciting line-up in the new year with the focus on contemporary theatre and dance. On February 19 Hereford’s only professional dance company, the allmale 2Faced Dance presents its new fulllength work, Out of His Skin, choreographed by artistic director Tamsin Fitzgerald.

In April, National Dance Company Wales make a welcome return with a spellbinding triple bill, including the latest work by house choreographer Eleesha Drennan.

Earlier in the month, there’s also the highly anticipated return of Ockham’s Razor with their new show Not Until We Are Lost, which will see the Forum transformed, the seating removed so that aerial theatre can take place above and around a standing audience, who will be free to move amongst the performers.

Then from the makers of Peppa Pig comes Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom live on stage for the very first time on May 11 and 12.

There’s comedy from Andy Parsons and Rich Hall and the season will also see some of the biggest names in music come to the venue. The Dubliners and The Hollies return, as do Nigel Kennedy, Lesley Garrett, John Williams, Andris Nelsons, Paul Lewis, Freddy Kempf, Peter Donohoe, Martin Roscoe and Kathryn Stott.

To book tickets or for further information, call the box office on 01684 892277