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
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tvReview: Bread-making skills of the Bake Off hopefuls put to the test
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architecture
Arts and Entertainment
Cliff Richard performs at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam on 17 May 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Educating the East End returns to Channel 4 this autumn

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush

music
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Mark Crown, DJ Locksmith and Amir Amor of Rudimental performing on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park, Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
Gary Lineker at the UK Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Bale as Batman in a scene from
film
Arts and Entertainment
Johhny Cash in 1969
musicDyess Colony, where singer grew up in Depression-era Arkansas, opens to the public
Arts and Entertainment
Army dreamers: Randy Couture, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren and Jason Statham
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants
tvReview: It's not going to set the comedy world alight but it's a gentle evening watch
Arts and Entertainment
Umar Ahmed and Kiran Sonia Sawar in ‘My Name Is...’
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
This year's Big Brother champion Helen Wood
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Full company in Ustinov's Studio's Bad Jews
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Harari Guido photographed Kate Bush over the course of 11 years
Music
Arts and Entertainment
Reviews have not been good for Jonathan Liebesman’s take on the much loved eighties cartoon
Film

A The film has amassed an estimated $28.7 million in its opening weekend

Arts and Entertainment
Untwitterably yours: Singer Morrissey has said he doesn't have a twitter account
Music

A statement was published on his fansite, True To You, following release of new album

Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
    eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

    eBay's enduring appeal

    The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

    'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
    Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

    Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

    Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
    Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

    Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

    After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
    Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

    Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

    After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
    Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

    Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

    Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
    7 best quadcopters and drones

    Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

    From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home