THEATRE: THE FIVE BEST PLAYS IN LONDON ... AND BEYOND

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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. To Sept

2

Candide (Olivier, National)

Exhilarating staging by John Caird of the wittiest and trickiest of all possible musicals. Alex Kelly is a delectably funny Cunegonde, and Simon Russell Beale turns in a trenchant tour de force doubling as Pangloss and Voltaire. Booking to Oct

3

The Real Thing (Donmar Warehouse)

Tom Stoppard's witty, thoughtful disquisition on love looks even better now than it did in 982, helped by an immensely attractive and subtle performance from Stephen Dillane. To 7 Aug

4

Hay Fever (Savoy Theatre)

Collectors of enjoyable camp should rush to see Geraldine McEwan, who is sublime as the actress heroine in Declan Donnellan's wittily over- the-top Coward revival. To 4 Aug

5

Rose (Cottesloe, National)

Olympia Dukakis exels in Martin Sherman's monologue as an 80-year- old Jewish woman looking back over a life that takes her from the Warsaw Ghetto to Atlantic City. See reviews, left.

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 skilful revival of this rarely performed T S Eliot play. To 7 Oct

2

House and Garden

(Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough)

Two enjoyable linked plays by Alan Ayckbourn. The twist is that they are performed simultaneously in two adjacent auditoria, with the same nippy cast racing back and forth. Best to see both. Finishes tonight

3

Jumpers (Birmingham Rep)

Tom Stoppard's diabolically agile feat of mental gymnastics, first seen in 972, bounces back in this enterprising revival. To 7 Jul

4

Tales from Ovid (Swan Theatre, Stratford)

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

5

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 become, playing the title role in this patchy but engrossing studio production of Schiller's mighty tragedy. To 7 Oct

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