`Collected Stories'

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What Is It?

New York author Donald Margulies' slow-moving two-hander about age overtaken by youth and the perils of writing fiction based on real life. Margulies was apparently inspired by the 1993 controversy that surrounded the American novelist David Leavitt's appropriation of a chapter from Stephen Spender's autobiography.

Who's In It?

Helen Mirren (right) is excellent as Ruth Steiner, an established short- story writer and teacher, fluctuating between frustration and affection as the balance of power shifts between her and her ambitious young pupil Lisa Morrison (Anne-Marie Duff).

What They Say About It

"There are moments when it comes together, and the two performances seem to fire off each other... but it's all too little, too late to ever turn this into a success story," Dominic Cavendish, The Independent.

"Mirren and Duff act and inter-act beautifully, even if the play itself has a slow-burning quietude that belongs in a smaller, off-West End house," Michael Billington, The Guardian.

"Unfortunately the play is a touch predictable and pat. Only in Mirren's marvellous moment of recollected love, and in her bitter desolation at the end, does it really take flight," Charles Spencer, The Daily Telegraph.

Where You Can See It

Collected Stories is at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, London SW1 (0171-930 8800) ends 5 Feb