The Critical List

An essential guide to the week ahead
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The Independent Culture
For those who wouldn't been seen dead going to panto - not even a traditional one like Babes in the Wood at Sadler's Wells starring Jack Tripp, Britain's oldest Dame - there are at least three openings this week in which the phrase "he's behind yo u" will not appear. On Tuesday, Patricia Routledge (above) sweeps into the Queens Theatre as Mrs Malaprop in The Rivals, while on the same night, Matthew Lloyd's hugely impressive cast open at Hampstead Theatre in Slavs, the latest play from Tony Angels in America Kushner.

Other shows opening this week not tied to the spirit of Christmas include Gilbert and Sullivan's The Yeoman of the Guard which opens in Cardiff on Tuesday. Conducted by Charles Mackerras, the Welsh National Opera production is by Tim Hopkins, so larkiness can be expected. On a more intimate scale, Phyllida Lloyd's production of The Threepenny Opera opens at the Donmar Warehouse on Wednesday.

Those in charge of children may be aware that there are not one, but two Macaulay Culkin (above) films opening on Friday: Nutcracker, as in the ballet, in which he plays the Prince, and The Pagemaster, a live action spectacular, which will no doubt make special use of the boy wonder's talent for virtual acting.

Anyone unable to get out can revel in the final episode of Pedr James' lovingly filmed version of Martin Chuzzlewit, which reaches its climax on BBC2 tonight.

Sadler's Wells: 071-278 8916

Albery Theatre: 071-369 1730

Hampstead Theatre: 071-722 9301

Donmar: 071-369 1732

Cardiff: 0222 394844

Martin Chuzzlewit: Mon, 9.30pm