THE FIVE BEST PLAYS

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The Independent Culture
THE CHERRY ORCHARD. Adrian Noble's stunning version of Chekhov's masterpiece. With Penelope Wilton and Josie Lawrence. Stratford Swan (01789 295623) in rep to Jan. Tues 7.30-10.10. M: Wed 1.30.

THE PHOENICIAN WOMEN. Euripides emerges as thoroughly modern tragedian in Katie Mitchell's powerfully spare production. Stratford Other Place (01789 295623) in rep to Jan. Thurs & Fri 7.30-9.30. M: Thurs 1.30.

RAT IN THE SKULL. Stephen Daldry directs a superb cast in Ron Hutchinson's compelling piece on the Northern Irish mind. Duke of York's, WC2 (0171 836 5122) to 18 Nov. Mon-Sat 7.30-9.15. M: Thurs & Sat 3.00.

THREE SISTERS. Provincial dreams and frustrations sharply depicted in Max Stafford-Clark's engrossing Chekhov production. Darlington Civic Theatre, 01325 486555 to Fri; then touring. Tues & Fri 7.30-10.20. M: Wed 2.00.

THREE TALL WOMEN. Maggie Smith is triumphant again in Edward Albee's comeback. Wyndham's, WC2 (0171 369 1736) to 16 Dec. Tues-Sat 8.00-10.00. M: Wed & Sat 3.00. Irving Wardle and Robert Butler

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