THEATRE: THE FIVE BEST PLAYS IN LONDON

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The Independent Culture
1

Merchant of Venice (Cottesloe, National)

With the magnificent Henry Goodman as Shylock, Trevor Nunn's 920s- style production finds a rich complexity in a play too often simplified on the stage. Truly great directing. In rep to Sept

2

Look Back in Anger (Lyttelton, National)

Five tremendously alert performances make this revival of Osborne's iconic play completely riveting. A production of enormous subtlety and power which will win awards. In rep to Sept

3

Antony and Cleopatra (Shakespeare's Globe)

Mark Rylance is a beguilingly persuasive Cleopatra - ironically much less of a drag act than Frances de la Tour in the current Stratford production. See review, left. In rep to 26 Sept

4

The Backroom (The Bush)

A quite ridiculously funny farce set in a gay male brothel. Jonathan Lloyd's tremendous cast find every possible laugh in Adrian Pagan's script (his first) which has one-liners a go-go. To 3 Sept

5

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (Regent's Park)

Winning larks in the park with this big-hearted revival by Ian Talbot of Stephen Sondheim's hilarious Roman scandals musical. To 3 Aug

... AND BEYOND

The Family Reunion (Swan Theatre, Stratford)

A masterclass in electrically incisive verse-speaking from Greg Hicks, who gives utter credibility to the Furies-haunted Harry in Adrian Noble's skillful revival of this rarely performed TS Eliot play. In rep to 7 Oct

2

Don Carlos (The Other Place, Stratford)

All quixotic humour and Oedipal anguish, Rupert Penry Jones gives notice of the excellent Hamlet he will one day give, playing the title role in this patchy but engrossing production of Schiller's play. In rep to 7 Oct

3

Oroonoko (The Other Place, Stratford)

There's indignation but a refreshing lack of political correctness in this powerful and witty dramatisation of the novel by the 7th-century writer Aphra Behn, which takes a humane look at the slave trade. To 6 Oct

4

Easy Virtue (The Chichester Festival Theatre)

Greta Scacchi scintillates as the glamorous "woman with a past" in Maria Aitken's assured revival of this early Coward. To 2 Oct

5

Tales from Ovid (Swan Theatre, Stratford)

Ted Hughes's adaptation of the Metamorphoses gets the Tim Supple treatment, vividly demonstrating the inherent theatricality of these myths. In rep to 7 Oct

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