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The Learned Ladies

There are joys aplenty in Moliere's comedy thanks to acute, astute direction by Steven Pimlott who mines the text for laughs and painful truths. Excellent performances from Alison Fiske and Jane Gurnett while John Quayle's portrayal of the worm that turns is an outrage - and very funny. A pleasure.

RSC, The Pit, The Barbican, London EC1 (0171-638 8891)


The credits alone are enough to make you go to this musical version of the famously dark tale. Why? Because writer/director Anthony Clarke and composer Mark Vibrans are the team behind the captivating and deeply moving The Red Balloon, which treated children as the sophisticated theatre audiences they are.

Birmingham Rep Theatre (0121-236 4455)

I Licked a Slag's Deodorant

Writer/director Jim Cartwright's stingingly funny, wrenchingly sad play proves he is on a continuum with Samuel Beckett and Alan Bennett. A tough- minded, unsentimental chamber work with Cartwright coaxing outstanding performances from Tim Potter and Polly Hemingway.

Royal Court Theatre Upstairs at the Ambassadors, London WC2 (0171-565 5000)

A Doll's House

Janet McTeer is electrifying, partnered by Owen Teale giving a tremendous slow burn of a performance, in Anthony Page's production which is paced like Hitchcock, with a staggeringly emotional pay-off. Compulsive, compulsory viewing. Miss it at your peril

Playhouse Theatre, London W1 (0171-638 8892)

Swan Lake

The most passionate, powerful and purely theatrical night out in London. Even balletphobes will thrill to Matthew Bourne's extraordinarily imaginative mix of drama and dance drenched in sex and danger. A sensational two-and- a-half hours.

Piccadilly Theatre, London W1 (0171-369 1734)

Dick Whittington and His Cat

I can exclusively reveal that the likes of Ian Botham and Ian Beale will not be spending their Christmas in Salisbury this year. Hurrah. Happily, local theatregoers will have a real panto from the trusty pens of writer/ director Colin Wakefield and the multifarious musical talents of composer Kate Edgar.

Salisbury Playhouse (01722 320333)

David Benedict