A quietly proud Indian woman, a teen-age joyrider, a Pakistani shopkeeper and several police officers, male and female, (all played by Nichola McAuliffe) are just some of the characters in the beating heart of Bryony Lavery's startling portrait of "this sceptr'd isle". A superb production by Annie Castledine.

The Bush Theatre, London W12 (0181-743 3388)

Knives in Hens

Philip Howard directs a very welcome revival of David Harrower's thrilling debut, an eloquent drama whose calm strength outstrips its passionate ambitions. One of the finest plays of 1996.

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh (0131-228 1404)

Side By Side by Sondheim

Liza Sadovy and Kathryn Evans have a ball with Sondheim's early hits. Matthew Francis's inventive direction ensures that you will, too.

Greenwich Theatre, London SE10 (0181-858 7755)

Life Support

Neither playwright Simon Gray nor his regular leading actor, Alan Bates, have been this good for a long time. Harold Pinter directs a funny, detailed and distincly moving evening.

Aldwych Theatre, London WC2 (0171-416 6003)

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

A splendidly inventive outdoor staging of Lewis Carroll's story of the incredible shrinking heroine who encounters dangerous drinks, cats, cards and caterpillars.

Williamson Park, Lancaster (01524-66645)


Imagine Glengarry Glen Ross crossed with The Birthday Party and you're close to Simon's Block's play with its terrific, noose-tightening finish. Nicholas Woodeson leads an excellent cast which makes you believe you're watching Death of a Salesman with far more laughs.

Hampstead Theatre, London NW3 (0171-722 9301)

Blue Heart

The world premiere of two interwoven plays from the great Caryl Churchill, directed by Max Stafford-Clark, theatrical midwife to Cloud Nine, Top Girls and other cornerstones of her unchallenged repertoire.

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh (0131-228 1404)

Guys and Dolls

Oh joy! Tickets are now available for the best possible night out. Rush to the phone.

National Theatre, London SE1 (0171-928 2252)

David Benedict