As the 1998 Arts Festival closes this weekend, organisers are already announcing the programme for 1999. The highlight - if only in terms of stamina - of next year's festival must be the Shanghai Kunju Opera Troupe's production of Peony Pavilion, China's equivalent of The Mahabarata, lasting 18 hours and with more than 50 scenes. In Hong Kong there will be four evening performances and two matinees. There will be no full run-through of the show: as one festival programmer said: 'Who would go to see it?' The piece - the first full-length Peony Pavilion to be seen in Hong Kong - is co-produced with the Lincoln Centre Festival and the Sydney Festival. The director is Chen Si-zheng who choreographed the mesmerising re-interpretation of Euripides Bacchae at this year's festival. I hope that next year they don't forget to put the surtitles in the slide projector, an omission that almost spoiled Bacchae for those in the audience who were not confident with Beijing-dialect Putonghua. The programme also includes the Kirov Opera, Chorus and Orchestra from the Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg - whose 240 musicians, singers and staff will present Tchaikovsky's opera Pique Dame - while the Hamburg Ballet presents its own version of A Midsummer Night's Dream as well as Vivaldi or What You Will. Next year's arts festival will, unusually, take place before the Lunar New Year, meaning a one-week crossover with the Fringe Festival. At last, for one week, performers and audiences will have a happening arty bar to convene in after the shows, perhaps providing a hint of the after- hours atmosphere that, as always, has been lamentably lacking for this annual festival in Hong Kong. Fear not for more Shakespeare The Royal National Theatre's Othello has hied off to China where the cast no doubt will find even more mobile phones to break the silence of the death scene. They will not leave Hong Kong Shakespeareless. Theatre Hong Kong (formerly, or perhaps simultaneously, known as the Landing Lights Players) will present a new version of A Midsummer Night's Dream called Pocket Dream at the Fringe Club March 11 to 14. March 18 to 21 sees the Queens Cafe Company treading the same boards with a production of Richard II, with RTHK Radio 4's Jonathan Douglas (Artbeat) as the King. Too little for those almost too late The Art Museum show National Treasures - Gems of China's Cultural Relics closed on Sunday with more than 226,000 people going through the portals of the museum in 10 weeks. This is, by a long way, a record for the museum, and a reflection of the excellent collection of antiquities from 30 Chinese museums. The last two days were particularly chaotic with one tenth - 22,767 - of visitors to the show choosing Saturday and Sunday to do so. This was everyone who had been meaning to go but who had either not quite got round to it, as well as those who wanted one last twirl past the jade burial suit before it returned home. Was it churlish for at least one of those visitors to wonder why, when there were two people checking tickets and two people at the information desk, there was often only one person giving out the CD guides to the show? It meant 20-minute waits or, worse, people going through without the background to put the exhibits in context. The next show is very different - Icelandic Painting of the 20th Century - with rather different attendance figures expected. The exhibition features some 50 works by 28 artists from Iceland, and promises to offer an interesting and unusual northern slant to the history of European art this century. The show runs from March 17 to April 19. Postcards plus from Sheung Wan Question: How do Stephen Black and Clara Loon explore 'themes of intimacy, commercialism, geography and time'? Answer: the two local artists create illustrated postcards and maps of Sheung Wan over a period of 100 days, call it performance art, and then, presumably, they sell what they have made. To see Clarevo 100 in action go to John Batten Gallery at 13/F Foo Cheong Building, 82-86 Wing Lok Street, Sheung Wan before March 26. Call 2854 1018 for map-creating times. They start work today but the opening is next Tuesday.