THEATRE: CURTAIN CALLS

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The Independent Culture
Quite the best news in theatreland this week is the return of graceful actor Alec McCowen. A sudden stroke last year forced him to withdraw from Michael Grandage's Almeida revival of The Doctor's Dilemma, but now he's back and he's fighting fit.

Mind you, he famously relishes a challenge. It was McCowen who sparked the craze for marathon- like solo shows when, in 1978, he mesmerisingly performed the whole of St Mark's Gospel on stage. He suffered memorably at the National as the psychiatrist in Equus, and swooned for the love of Diana Rigg in a legendary revival of The Misanthrope. He even expunged the memory of Rex Harrison's Higgins in the superb complete recording of My Fair Lady (on TER). The professor may be caddish and brutish, but McCowen lends him true humanity.

His musical skill will come in handy in Quartet, in which he plays an opera singer. Still singing? I wouldn't put it past him.

Quartet, Albery Theatre, London WC2 (0171-369 1730) from Mon

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