The Independent Recommends: The Five Best Plays

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The Merchant of Venice (Cottesloe, National, London)

With the magnificent Henry Goodman as Shylock, Trevor Nunn's 1920s-style production finds a rich complexity in a play too often simplified on the stage. Truly great directing. In rep to 11 Sept

Candide (Olivier Theatre, National, London)

Exhilarating staging by John Caird of the wittiest and trickiest of all possible musicals. Simon Russell Beale turns in a trenchant tour de force, doubling as Pangloss and Voltaire. Booking to Oct

The Real Thing (Donmar Warehouse, London)

Tom Stoppard's witty, thoughtful disquisition on love looks even better now than in 1982, helped by an attractive performance from Stephen Dillane. To 7 Aug

The Family Reunion (Swan Theatre, Stratford)

A masterclass in electrically incisive verse-speaking from Greg Hicks, who gives utter credibility to the Furies-haunted Harry in Adrian Noble's skilful revival of this rarely performed TS Eliot play (right). In rep to 7 Oct

Jumpers (Birmingham Rep)

Tom Stoppard's diabolically agile feat of mental gymnastics bounces back in this enterprising revival. To Sat

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