THE FIVE BEST PLAYS

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The Independent Culture
Simply Heavenly

(Trafalgar Studios, London)

Langston Hughes's musical from 1957 has the hairs standing on the back of your neck. A dynamite cast lets rip with jazz, gospel and blues. (0870 060 6632) to 5 Mar

Relative Values (Salisbury Playhouse)

Rare revival of Noel Coward's comedy about an upper-class heir- apparent getting engaged to a Hollywood starlet. (01722 320333) to 26 Feb

Festen

(Lyric Theatre, London)

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

ZGoing Dutch

(Grand Theatre, Blackpool)

John Godber's new play, which examines the disintegration of a marriage, is a smasher. (01253-290190) to 12 Feb

Don Carlos

(Gielgud Theatre, London)

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

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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