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

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The Independent Culture
Don Carlos (Gielgud Theatre)

The improbable is turned into glorious actuality in this stunning production by Michael Grandage, with the great veteran Derek Jacobi and the potentially great Richard Coyle. See Reviews, left. Booking to 30 Apr.

The History Boys (NT: Lyttleton)

Alan Bennett's most exhilarating play for quite some time is set in a Yorkshire boys' grammar school during the mid-1980s, and dramatises the onset of a battle over education that is still being fought today. Richard Griffiths stars. To 26 Apr

Festen (Lyric Shaftesbury Avenue)

A much-deserved, partially recast West End transfer for this beautifully adapted and impeccably directed stage version of the Dogme film, in which a bourgeois patriarch is denounced at his 60th-birthday festivities. To 9 Apr

Mary Poppins (Prince Edward Theatre)

Like the mischievous wind that sweeps aside the other nannies in the original movie, this stage adaptation simply blows away the opposition from rival West End musicals with its magic, heart and chutzpah. To 24 Sept

Ta Main Dans La Mienne (Pit, Barbican)

Peter Brook presents a beautiful evocation of the relationship between Chekhov and his actress wife, Olga Knipper. Michel Piccoli and Natasha Parry bestow a lovely graciousness on the proceedings. See Reviews, left. Ends tonight

The Winter's Tale (Watermill, Newbury)

Edward Hall and his all-male Propeller Company excel even their own enviable best with this simply (and not-so- simply) wonderful production of Shakespeare's late, great tragicomedy. To 19 Mar

Julius Caesar (Swan Theatre, Stratford)

David Farr's informal production transplants the proceedings from ancient Rome to the world of other would-be dictators, such as Vladimir Putin in modern-day Russia. To 26 Feb

Going Dutch (Grand Theatre, Blackpool; Middlesbrough Theatre)

Cracking new comedy by John Godber in which a 50th-birthday weekend in Amsterdam is disrupted by an old college friend and her one-time porn- star lover. Blackpool, ends tonight; Middlesbrough, Tue to Sat

Relative Values (Salisbury Playhouse)

Lucy Pitman-Wallace directs a rare revival of this 1950s Noel Coward comedy in which the upper-crust bridle when an heir apparent gets engaged to a Hollywood starlet. How times change. To 26 Feb

Rutherford and Son (Royal Exchange, Manchester)

Northern industrial drama and the tensions between fathers and the younger generation are presented from a valuably female perspective in this revival of Githa Soweby's fine play.

To 19 Feb

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