RSC New Work Festival, Swan/Cox's Yard, Stratford

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The Independent Culture

The RSC is excelling in its riskier sidelines, not least its new writing seasons. Breakfast With Mugabe by Fraser Grace premières in the Swan, directed with vigour by Antony Sher. This is a darkly comic and tense - if occasionally convoluted - palace drama, making one think of Macbeth yet set in Harare's State House before the 2002 elections. Dr Peric (David Rintoul) is an authoritative psychiatrist but also a white farm-owner, summoned to heal Mugabe who apparently keeps seeing the bitter ghost of his ex-rival, Nkomo. However, Joseph Mydell's watchful, twitching Mugabe may be more cunning and incurably angry about the colonial past than Peric grasps.

Also, two American short plays are staged in a nearby converted barn, Cox's Yard. Eric LaRue by Brett Neveu is an initially tiresome but ultimately harrowing portrait of inept pastoral care which tells the story of a devastated mother and her son who's in prison for shooting fellow pupils. Lia Williams and Kevin Trainor, as the boy, are weeping and shaking by the end.

Suzanne Burden, meanwhile, is absolutely electrifying in David Adjmi's chilling post-9/11 monologue, playing a stinking rich New Yorker chattering away about the latest artwork she's commissioned and how terrorism may justify torture.

To 28 October, 0870 609 1110

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