Theatre reviews

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Further Than the Furthest Thing National Theatre, London SE1 (020-7452 3000) Zinnie Harris alights on Tristan da Cunha - the volcanic island whose inhabitants were evacuated to England in the Sixties - for her imaginative new play. Happily, she jettisons documentary in favour of a distilled evocation - poignant and gently funny - of an eccentric, cut-off culture. In a strongly-cast production, Paolo Dionisotti breaks your heart. Harris is an intriguing new talent, who skilfully draws out the audience's protective instincts. She makes you want to rush out to find an endangered species to champion. Paul Taylor

Further Than the Furthest Thing National Theatre, London SE1 (020-7452 3000) Zinnie Harris alights on Tristan da Cunha - the volcanic island whose inhabitants were evacuated to England in the Sixties - for her imaginative new play. Happily, she jettisons documentary in favour of a distilled evocation - poignant and gently funny - of an eccentric, cut-off culture. In a strongly-cast production, Paolo Dionisotti breaks your heart. Harris is an intriguing new talent, who skilfully draws out the audience's protective instincts. She makes you want to rush out to find an endangered species to champion. Paul Taylor

To the Green Fields Beyond Donmar Warehouse, London WC2 (020-7369 1732) For all its heavily researched period detail, Nick Whitby's play about a tank crew in the final days of The Great War fails to rise beyond inevitability. The tension is never high because you know Whitby won't risk forfeiting a heart-tugging close. Sam Mendes' well-acted, atmospheric production, set among moonlit birch trees, possesses a fine emotional directness, but it cannot stop the proceedings from coming perilously close to rainbowcoalition sentimentality. I've felt less manipulated after a session with the chiropractor. PT

Another Country Arts Theatre, London WC2 (020-7836 3334) Stephen Henry's first-rate revival of Julian Mitchell's engrossing drama, homes in on the hypocrisy of a Thirties public school at which boys discard homosexual pasts to achieve power. This superb, ripplingly ambiguous production is cast pretty much to perfection. It is difficult to imagine Tom Wisdom turning into a bitter Russian spy like Guy Burgess, but Ben Meyjes doesn't put a foot wrong as the swotting communist, while Patrick Ryecart is a hilariously fruity uncle and Martin Hutson is touching as the prefect under pressure. PT

The Beautiful Game Cambridge Theatre, London WC2 (020-7494 5080) Lord Lloyd Webber and Ben Elton attempting a musical about the Troubles via a Belfast teenage football club? The trouble is that neither Meryl Tankard's hard-edged choreography, nor the OK, Celtic-tinged music, or the uninspired lyrics. It is Elton's book that is the culprit. "A person's first loyalty is to what they feel in their heart," says one of the good characters. No doubt Ian Paisley would agree with that. The show blunders over the tribalisms of football and sectarian hatred. Too much is fudged and the nostalgia feels phoney. PT

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