Long verbal confrontations between a young woman and an older man provide the basis for two of the finest displays of acting now to be seen in London. In James Saunders's Retreat at the Orange Tree, Richmond, Tim Pigott-Smith (right) and Victoria Hamilton probe one another's parallel histories with a remarkable intensity as a man who needs to keep the past a closed book and as the girl who thinks it might redeem them both to reopen it. Playing a pair of ex-lovers in David Hare's Skylight at the National Theatre's Cottesloe, Michael Gambon and Lia Williams expertly flesh out all the ambiguities in this painful look at the difference between loving people in general and one person in particular.

By contrast, the stylish, sexy menage trois in Nol Coward's Design for Living (Gielgud) show what follows from loving two persons in particular.

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