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

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The Independent Culture
1

Summerfolk (Olivier, National)

A sublime vindication of the National's ensemble policy as a seasoned company of 20-odd actors bring Gorky's anxious turn-of- the-century Russians to richly complex life. See review, left. To Nov

2

The Triumph of Love (Almeida, London)

Marivaux's tart comedy of serial seduction. Linda Bassett and Colin Stinton are hilarious as a repressed couple tricked into emotional abandon. See review, left. To 25 Sept

3

Krapp's Last Tape (The Pit, Barbican)

With his wrecked Rembrandtesque face and compelling voice, John Hurt creates an indelible impression as the reclusive oldster poring over a recording of his younger self. Ends tomorrow.

4

Drummers (New Ambassadors)

Caustic black comedy about vengeful jailbirds from a new playwright, Simon Bennett, who, having once served a sentence for burglary, knows what he's talking about. To 9 Oct

5

Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell (Old Vic)

Peter O'Toole recreates his incomparably funny and melancholic portrait of the legendary boozer. With Bernard now dead, the play's musings on Closing Time assume a darker tone. To 25 Sept

Timon of Athens (RSC, Stratford Upon Avon)

Michael Pennington shines as a violent but psychologically subtle Timon, in this remarkably witty and penetrating production. The splendid use of a Duke Ellington jazz suite rounds it off. In rep to 9 Oct

2

Don Carlos (RSC, Stratford Upon Avon)

Exuding a dishevelled glamour, Rupert Penry Jones gives a stellar performance in Gale Edwards' intensely claustrophobic production of Schiller's play. Memorable and chilling. In rep to 7 Oct

3

Irma La Douce (Watermill Theatre, Newbury)

With this intimate theatre converted into a Parisian cafe and the cast doubling as the band, there's a cabaret atmosphere to John Doyle's rousing revival of this Fifties musical. To 25 Sept

4

Oroonoko (The Other Place, Stratford)

There's indignation, but a refreshing lack of political correctness, in this powerful, witty dramatisation of Aphra Behn's novel about the slave trade. In rep to 6 Oct

5

Easy Virtue (Chicester Festival Theatre)

Greta Scacchi scintillates as the "woman with a past" in Maria Aitken's revival of this Coward play, which deals with issues of prejudice and sanctimony. To 2 Oct

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