THE FIVE BEST PLAYS

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TA MAIN DANS LA MIENNE (Barbican, London)

Peter Brook directs this beautiful evocation of the relationship between Chekhov and his actress wife, Olga Knipper. (0845 120 7550) ends Sat

DON CARLOS

(Gielgud Theatre, London)

Transfer from Sheffield of Friedrich Schiller's epic, maze-like romantic tragedy, with Derek Jacobi relishing his role as Philip II of Spain. (0870 890 1105) to 30 Apr

FESTEN

(Lyric Theatre, London)

Cracking production, by Rufus Norris, of the Dogme drama about an ill-fated family celebration. (0870 890 1107) to 9 Apr

ZMARY POPPINS (Prince Edward Theatre, London)

Directed with huge flair by Richard Eyre, this gives new depths to the material, in what emerges as the year's most joyous musical. (020- 7447 5400) to 24 Sept

SIMPLY HEAVENLY

(Trafalgar Studios, London)

Langston Hughes's 1957 musical has a dynamite cast, which lets rip with jazz, gospel and blues. (0870 060 6632) to 5 Mar

AND ONE TO AVOID

TROPICANA (London Bridge Vaults, London)

Camp and inconsequential, Shunt's latest show is just an empty tease. Bogus mirth at its least infectious.

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