Recommended: THE FIVE BEST PLAYS

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THE FIVE BEST plays

CLOSER. Patrick Marber's searing follow-up to 'Dealer's Choice' establishes him as the leading playwright of his generation. Lyric, WC2 (0171 494 5045), to 26 Sept. Mon-Sat 7.30. M: Wed & Sat 3.00.

COPENHAGEN. Michael Frayn turns nuclear physics during the Second World War into a fascinating detective mystery - powerfully staged by Michael Blakemore - in the best new play this year. Cottesloe, SE1 (0171 452 3000), in rep to 19 Sept. Fri & Sat 7.30. M: Sat 2.30.

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING. Cheek By Jowl go out in high style with Declan Donnellan's exuberantly choreographed farewell production with Saskia Reeves and Matthew Macfadyean an incisive Beatrice and Benedick. Playhouse, WC2 (0171 839 4401), to 25 Jul. Mon-Sat 7.30. M: Thurs & Sat 2.30.

TALK OF THE CITY. Stephen Poliakoff's intriguingly apposite play about the BBC in the 1930s is a delicious mix of showbiz brio, mystery, and period detail. RSC Swan (01789 295623), in rep to 3 Sept. Tues, Wed & Sat 7.30. M: Sat 1.30.

THE UNEXPECTED MAN. Yasmina Reza's virtuoso follow-up to 'Art' has Michael Gambon and Eileen Atkins superbly contrasted as the well-known novelist and the devoted fan finding themselves sitting opposite each other on a train. Duchess, WC2 (0171 494 5075), to 8 Aug. Mon-Sat 8.00. M: Wed 4.00 Sat 5.00.

Robert Butler

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