BEST OF THE REST

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The Independent Culture
A Doll's House

Anthony Page's sensational production feels like a time-bomb waiting to go off. Janet McTeer is mesmerising as the young wife, partnered by Owen Teale giving a tremendous slow burn of a performance. Compulsive, compulsory viewing, with a staggeringly emotional finale.

Playhouse Theatre, London W1 (0171-638 8892)

Swan Lake

The most passionate, powerful and purely theatrical night out in London. Whether you love or hate ballet, Matthew Bourne's extraordinarily imaginative reworking of this classic is a thrilling feast for the senses.

Piccadilly Theatre, London W1 (0171-369 1734)

Talent

She doesn't just do telly and stand-up, Victoria Wood writes plays, too. Full marks for programming with Ian Forrest's welcome revival of the nation's favourite comedy writer's play about a talent contest.

Octagon Theatre, Bolton (01204 520661)

Mrs Warren's Profession

Rae Smith's marvellously spare design and Neil Bartlett's wonderfully clear direction focus the eye and ear on excellent performances from Maggie Steed, Neil Stacy and Catherine Cusack in Shaw's tragi-comedy of sexual politics.

Lyric Hammersmith, London W6 (0181-741 2311)

Her Aching Heart

Sapphism, sophistication and downright silliness in Bryony Lavery's wonderfully over-the-top tale of heaving bosoms and literary lusts. Think Georgette Heyer, but with more gags.

Freedom Theatre, London (0171-734 0071)

Dark Tales

Fans of Carla Lane's Butterflies should flock to see Andrew Hall, who played Wendy Craig's feckless son Russell, in Tim Arthur's macabre, unsettling thriller. It was a hit at the Edinburgh Festival, and is the opening shot from the enterprising JFK Repertory Company.

Arts Theatre, London WC2 (0171-836 2132)

Sweeney Todd

Former Phantom Dave Willetts gives sundry citizens a terrifyingly close shave while Jeanette Ranger's pie shop does booming business in Sondheim's magnificent musical thriller. Is it an opera? Is it a musical? Who cares. It's a masterpiece.

Previews from Monday, Leicester Haymarket (0116-253 9797)

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