THEATRE director Russ Tunney has a busy week ahead of him, with two touring productions in repertory at Southampton's Nuffield Theatre, where he has been associate director for the past three years.

If Russ's face looks familiar, it is because he was Salisbury Playhouse's youth theatre director for four years, before moving on to Bath's Theatre Royal and the Chester Gateway theatre. He also lives in Salisbury with his partner Lee, son Dylan (3) and baby Lola.

When Russ took the position at The Nuffield, he inherited a stable programme of touring work, prompting him to look at the possibilities of producing two shows in repertory.

"We tried it out and it worked. Now, every time we send out a touring show, we do two shows with each company. This attracts good actors to the theatre, who are prepared to do childrens' shows as well as more serious drama," he explains.

Hence, you can see Russ Tunney's productions of Orpheus next week in a new translation by Dinos Aristidou and his adaptation of Joan Aiken's popular book, Arabel and the Escaped Black Mamba, that has become a classic for children, and follows The Nuffield's successful production of Arabel's Raven in 2004.

"We have a cast of four who play just about everything and have been touring nationally since September. The Arabel books are quite fantastic, almost surreal, and became very popular with children following the television series. Joan Aiken wrote the Arabel stories for her daughter, who has been to see the show and absolutely loved it," says Russ.

Arabel is in complete contrast to Orpheus, based on the Greek legend. "It is the original quest story, a mental journey for Orpheus, dealing with the loss of his wife."

Once the tour ends for these two productions, Russ will continue writing for his new work, Fable. This is a collection of multi-cultural myths and legends for children, set to tour in repertory with two Brecht pieces, and directed by someone else.

"New writing is quite important to me," says Russ, "especially creating plays for a young audience," he adds.

"You are devising all the time and if you are in control of the writing, then a lot can happen. Writing and adapting work is great. In the three years I have been at the Nuffield, we must have commissioned seven or eight plays. The Nuffield has a good track record for writing."

Looking ahead to next year, Russ will be directing Frankie and Johnny at the Clair de Lune, in the main house in February.