Theatre: The five best plays in London

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The Independent Culture

Phedre, Albery

Diana Rigg and director Jonathan Kent continue their formidable partnership in this new Ted Hughes version of Racine's incomparable tragedy.


Via Dolorosa, Royal Court, Duke of York's

David Hare makes his acting debut with this passionate, witty and highly thought-provoking meditation on his recent trip to Israel and Palestine.


Handbag, Lyric Studio

An ingenious and highly entertaining new play by Mark Ravenhill (Shopping and Fucking) about parenting in the age of sperm donors and complicated sexualities.


Crave, Royal Court

The play that has convinced even hardened sceptics that Sarah "Blasted" Kane can write subtly as well as shockingly, while still tackling provocative subjects.


Loot, Vaudeville

Joe Orton's farce, involving a coffin, a corpse, bent cops and stolen lolly, is taken at a spirited lick in David Grindley's entertaining revival. Tracy-Ann Oberman is hilarious as the Catholic nurse.


Mr Puntila and His Man Matti, Oxford Playhouse

Comedy duo The Right Size are perfectly cast in this very funny revival of Brecht's play about a schizophrenic landowner and his chauffeur.


Hamlet, Birmingham Repertory Theatre

Bill Alexander's Hamlet is the eye-catching Richard McCabe who, after many witty roles at Stratford (Puck, Marlowe), now goes for the big one.


A Midsummer Night's Dream, Everyman, Cheltenham

Swansong for John Retallack as director of Oxford Stage Company which, under him, has produced some of the freshest touring Shakespeare around.


Guiding Star, Everyman, Liverpool

New play by Jonathan (Beautiful Thing) Harvey explores the survivor's guilt still haunting the hero nine years after Hillsborough.


As You Like It/Antony and Cleopatra, Salisbury Playhouse

Intriguing pairing which contrasts lovers at two different stages of life. Michael Bogdanov's company is led by Cathy Tyson and Tim Woodward.