The Hotel in Amsterdam, Donmar Warehouse, London

A Woman of No Importance, Haymarket Theatre Royal, London

The Recruiting Officer, Garrick, Lichfield

Charming, funny ... and totally vile

Michael Grandage's master plan as the Donmar's artistic director has been to bring overlooked modern classics to our attention. This has paid off at last, quite brilliantly, with A Hotel in Amsterdam. This long-forgotten 1968 play by John Osborne comes across as a small but perfectly crafted gem in Robin Lefèvre's superb revival.

Admittedly, if the acting was less fine-tuned, this city-break drama could seem slight as Osborne serves up two hours of talking with little action. Having given their demanding boss the slip for the weekend, three couples who work in the British film industry check into a chic suite in the Dutch capital. Considering the date and location you might expect this to degenerate into a collectively steamy affair if not a sex farce.

Yet what is quietly gripping about the scenario is that everybody just sits around, ordering more and more Scotch but never quite having the devastating row that's brewing. In fact, they mostly just listen to Tom Hollander's Laurie, a successful, egocentric and vituperative scriptwriter who has much in common with Osborne: he mouths off entertainingly and outrageously about his many obsessions including air hostesses and homosexuals, his monstrous mother and the boss, KL (a fictionalised version of Tony Richardson, Osborne's ex-flatmate and the original director of Look Back in Anger).

One or two of Laurie's speeches would benefit from cuts but essentially this is a subtly shaped, bleak slice of life which - unlike Look Back in Anger - never feels creaky. Maybe Hollander could lose his grip with more inner desperation, but he effortlessly captures Laurie's mix of working-class bullishness and poshed-up arrogance. He is charmingly funny and simultaneously vile, with a disturbing glint in his eye - even when he privately declares his love to Olivia Williams' arch but emotionally shaky Annie. Though Hollander doesn't remotely resemble the elongated Osborne, this pint-sized bitter imp somehow encapsulates the playwright's quintessence or self-image. Moreover, the minutely observed naturalism of the whole ensemble alerts you - through little pauses and ambivalent silent looks - to all the complex class tensions and potential loathing beneath the surface. Susannah Harker is frighteningly cool as Laurie's imperious Sloaney girlfriend, gazing ahead as he habitually strokes her arm. Anthony Calf's limp public-school Gus and Adrian Bower's long-haired Dan aren't as hilariously foolish or mellow as they seem either.

Laurie - laughing off his effeminate side - says he is always being taken for Oscar Wilde when in America. Over at the Haymarket, the two most interesting things about Adrian Noble's revival of A Woman of No Importance are the surprising parallels with Osborne's play and how Wilde's personality appears to be refracted into several of his own characters, male and female. Lord Illingworth is strikingly like Laurie as well as Oscar: a devilish wit who's been embraced by the upper classes because he's outrageously amusing. That said, the crude misogyny of Laurie is very different from the tight-lipped Victorian condemnation of "fallen women". Wilde takes a stand against sexist hypocrisy in this portrait of an essentially good single mother, Mrs Arbuthnot, who hides her past from her son, Gerald, and aristocratic neighbour, Lady Hunstanton, until Illingworth shows up like a bad penny.

In many ways this is a B-rate play, with epigrammatic repartee giving way to melodrama and sentimentality, but it's fascinating on an autobiographical level. One is strongly reminded that Wilde was an Irish outsider amongst English aristocrats, both by Illingworth's order-challenging quips and the meritocratic American character, Hester, who furiously criticises those who snub her. There's also an implicit psychological battle going on within Wilde as he condemns the amoral Illingworth, defends Mrs Arbuthnot as if she were on trial for her sexually unorthodox life, and tussles with Hester's imbued religious beliefs about carnal sin.

Unfortunately, none of that makes up for a lot of second-rate acting in showy period cossies. The suspicion that Noble has sold-out to tacky West End values is not a welcome addition to this play about true worth and compromise. Prunella Scales's Lady Hunstanton is particularly lamentable, fluffing numerous lines and Julian Ovenden's permanently grinning Gerald is excruciatingly slushy. Three performances, mercifully, save the day. Samantha Bond invests Mrs Arbuthnot with true passion. Joanne Pearce's Mrs Allonby is potently risqué, and Rupert Graves's suave, flippant Illingworth becomes chillingly determined to wrest Gerald from his mother.

Finally, a footnote on The Recruiting Officer. The Garrick is a brand new, redbrick and sheet-glass regional theatre. Though its bright airy foyers lack character, the auditorium is snug with a small proscenium arch. George Farquhar's 18th-century comedy about a dashing soldier combines romance with a gritty portrait of military corruption, and Owen Sharpe's Sergeant Kite is a hard-bitten rogue with real ferocity. However, James Hillier's Captain Plume appears to have no swash to buckle and Annie Castledine's production is peculiarly feeble. One hopes her co-director Corin Redgrave - playing a cameo role as bragging Captain Brazen - is enough to encourage the locals to sign up as regular theatregoers.

k.bassett@independent.co.uk

'The Hotel in Amsterdam': Donmar, London WC2 (020 7369 1732), to 15 Nov; 'A Woman of No Importance': Haymarket Theatre Royal, London SW1 (0870 901 3356), to 31 Jan

Arts and Entertainment
Keith from The Office ten years on

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams prepares to enter the House of Black and White as Arya Stark in Game of Thrones season five

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Albert Hammond Junior of The Strokes performs at the Natural History Museum on July 6, 2006 in London, England.

music
Arts and Entertainment
Howard Mollison, as played by Michael Gambon
tv review
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush in The King's Speech

The best TV shows and films coming to the service

tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Muscling in: Noah Stewart and Julia Bullock in 'The Indian Queen'

opera
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

TV
Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003