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The Independent Culture
Volunteers Gate Theatre

The Gate is spectacularly transformed into a boggy archaeological dig for this brilliant unearthing by Mick Gordon of Brian Friel's 1975 treasure of a play.

The Invention of Love Theatre Royal, Haymarket

Tom Stoppard's witty, heartbreaking fantasia on the twin passions of A E Housman: scholarship and an unavailable heterosexual friend.

The Weir Royal Court Duke of York's

Ghost stories recounted in a rural Irish bar give way to genuine horror in Conor McPherson's humane masterpiece, beautifully directed by Ian Rickson.

School for Scandal Barbican Theatre

Declan Donnellan places Sheridan's bitchfest in a raffish, royal and theatrically telling frame. See review, right.

Real Classy Affair Royal Court, The Ambassadors

Achingly hip cast deliver the goods in Nick Grosso's latest sharp- suited comic take on north-London lad culture.


Trackers of Oxyrhynchus West Yorkshire Playhouse

Tony Harrison's theatrically ebullient and learned attack on divisions between high and low art, told through the fate of a chorus of well-hung satyrs.

Richard III Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford

Charismatic Robert Lindsay limps rings round the other characters in Elijah Moshinsky's gripping production. See review, right

The Black Dahlia Derby Playhouse

A James Ellroy novel became LA Confidential. Now, it's back to tarnished Tinseltown for his Black Dahlia, rethought as theatre by Mike Alfreds.

A Midsummer Night's Dream Ilfracombe Landmark Theatre

Under John Retallack, the Oxford Stage Company has produced some of the freshest touring Shakespeare around. This is his swansong.

Three Sisters Birmingham Rep

Chekhov's classic is given the Bill Bryden treatment in Bill Alexander's exceptionally strong repertory season.