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Theatre companies have a nasty habit of appending the phrase "unjustly neglected" to any old tosh they happen to have discovered languishing in the comfortable obscurity of the British Library. Neglected maybe, but unjustly? There are always exceptions - Shadwell's The Virtuoso, or John Ford's The Broken Heart - but large numbers of them should be left to slumber on undisturbed. Indeed, the British Library could do future generations a great favour by labelling the scripts of contemporary, 24- carat disasters like Bernadette or Leonardo with the warning, "Danger: exhume at your peril".

Conversely, certain classics crop up with almost ridiculous regularity. Alan Rickman, Alan Cumming, Kenneth Branagh, Damian Lewis, Stephen Dillane and Ralph Fiennes recently weighed in for what amounted to a two-year "compare and contrast" exercise on Hamlet. Simon Russell Beale's incarnation of the role is still to come, but just when you thought it was safe to go back into the theatre, Opera North is plotting Ambroise Thomas's Hamlet, which happens to be just one of 22 operatic versions of the play.

There are a mere 12 Macbeth operas and one musical, Nightshriek. You'd have to hunt far and wide to hear anything but Verdi's version, but those in search of the play should stick to their local theatre. This autumn, English Touring Theatre takes Stephen Unwin's production everywhere from Wythenshawe to Winchester, with the delightfully named Richard Kill as Second Murderer, while Bill Alexander is moun- ting a production at Birmingham Rep in September.

After a performance of the legendary 1977 RSC production at the Young Vic, Ian McKellen was met at the stage door by a student who told him that his performance made him want to be an actor. His name? Mark Rylance. Eighteen years later, you can see him in his own production, which begins at Greenwich Theatre and also stars the less-than-likely Jane Horrocks (above). Happily, Trevor Nunn filmed his mesmerising production, so you too can see what Rylance saw. Hasten ye unto your local video vendor.

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