Theatre reviews

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The Dispute/The Critic Royal Exchange, Manchester(0161-833 9833) Marivaux's fascinating The Dispute invites us to see whether women are more fickle than men as they fall in and out of "love" like children changing toys. Matthew Lloyd's sparky production of Sheridan's The Critic is even better, with terrific design jokes that put actresses into huge panniers of astro-turf and head-dresses representing public buildings. The cast is lovely, especially Adam Godley as the greasily beaming prototype press agent, James Duke's pompously overripe Dangle, and Ewen Cummins as the Spanish gallant in the play-within-the-play. Rhoda Koenig

The Dispute/The Critic Royal Exchange, Manchester(0161-833 9833) Marivaux's fascinating The Dispute invites us to see whether women are more fickle than men as they fall in and out of "love" like children changing toys. Matthew Lloyd's sparky production of Sheridan's The Critic is even better, with terrific design jokes that put actresses into huge panniers of astro-turf and head-dresses representing public buildings. The cast is lovely, especially Adam Godley as the greasily beaming prototype press agent, James Duke's pompously overripe Dangle, and Ewen Cummins as the Spanish gallant in the play-within-the-play. Rhoda Koenig

King Lear Bristol Old Vic (0117-987 7877) Bill Wallis's Lear is an absolute ruler, wedded to power, waving to cheering crowds from a balcony with the stature and offhand cruelty of a true tyrant. Director Jan Sargent makes no bones about the modern parallels she is drawing out via sterling performances from Garfield Morgan (Gloucester), Jimmy Yuill (Kent) and Tim Barlow (Fool). There are a few occasions when the modern styling and clever devices detract from the story instead of enhancing it, but Sargent achieves her objective. This is strikingly successful contemporary Shakespeare. Toby O'Connor Morse

Fallen Angels Apollo Theatre, London W1 (020-7494 5070) Frances De la Tour's entrance makes it clear that she doesn't take Fallen Angels too seriously, but then this Noël Coward comedy is essentially a long, inebriated scene where two women boil with desire for an ex- who never shows. Director Michael Rudman saddles them with some appalling gags, but De la Tour lifts the evening to camp-classic status, stalking her imaginary prey like a great, flightless bird, emitting growls of longing, and sweeping an outclassed Felicity Kendal in her wake. Drunken ladies eager for adultery was risque enough in the past. And today? Hmmm. RK

Keepers Hampstead Theatre, London NW3 (020-7722 9301) That roomful of chimpanzees typing away may not yet have come up with Shakespeare's Hamlet, but chances are they've got to Michele Winstanley's Keepers by now - and that a chimp of discerning taste has binned it. The chimp-house of a zoo portrayed here is so rundown that only a donation from the visiting Mr Mohamed will save it from certain closure. The strongest presence in Julie-Ann Robinson's production is the offstage chimp who throws dung at the staff every time they approach. A critic, clearly. Rhoda Koenig

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