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The Independent Culture
Roberto Zucco

The Pit, London EC2 (0171-638 8891)

Director James Macdonald and designer Jeremy Herbert's extraordinarily arresting production matches the stark, gripping imagination of this play by the late Bernard-Marie Koltes. Via the character of Zucco, a killer on the run, Koltes examines and refracts attitudes to evil with an almost classical purity, and the whole cast feasts upon speeches of extraordinary intensity. Often bizarrely funny, this superbly staged production is a tough-minded triumph.

David Benedict

Uncle Vanya

Mercury, Colchester (01206 573948)

No star names, just an ensemble company and Mike Poulton's fluid, vivid translation of one of Chekhov's three great plays. David Hunt directs with immense subtlety, and his cast is never afraid to stretch moments to allow for pathos and comedy in equal measure. It is uneven in places, but the best moments are truly captivating. A positive blueprint for regional theatre, and a beautifully understated triumph for Colchester. Ends tonight.



National Theatre, London SE1 (0171-452 3000)

The score for Bernstein's glorious, grand-scale operetta - and the hair-raising finale, in particular - is so overwhelming that endless talents have tried to rewrite this problematic adaptation of Voltaire's frankly untheatrical novel. John Caird's new version clarifies things - and Simon Russell Beale is superb as the narrator - but the show is now so faithful to the original that it lasts a plodding three and a quarter hours, and fatally pushes the music into second place.


Suddenly Last Summer

Comedy Theatre, London SW1 (0171-369 1731)

Tennessee Williams at his most torrid needs a very firm hand. The Grand Guignol opening of Sean Mathias's revival augurs well, but he encourages his cast to play the subtext at the expense of the text. Motives that should appear gradually leap out at you from the very beginning, tipping the play into a world of madness and overacting. Rachel Weisz rises to the operatic challenge, but the play is better than it seems here.