Sex, desire, death and hypocrisy: they're all here. Neil Bartlett dusts down Terence Rattigan's final, flawed play and reveals it as a winner. To many, Rattigan revivals only serve to remind you why the angry young men sneered at him, but Bartlett's lucid, sharply directed and superbly acted production is an outstanding exception.
Lyric Hammersmith, London (0181-741 2311)
THE FRONT PAGE
Crime and corruption a-go-go in this famously frantic farce about a bunch of newspaper hacks fighting on the brink of a scoop. On Mark Thompson's excellent set, Sam Mendes's smart cast has a field day creating a riot of treasureable comic performances topped off by Alun Armstrong on awesome form as the fearsome editor.
Donmar Warehouse, WC2 (0171-369 1732)
Judi Dench is winning every award in sight for her truly remarkable performance in Richard Eyre's deeply felt production of David Hare's play. And so she should. It is a privilege to see her.
Aldwych Theatre, WC2 (0171-416 6003)
David Mamet's wittily interleaved portrait of eight men crewing a Lakeboat is chock-full of energy and comic moments of insight. Aaron Mullen's staging is extremely atmospheric, thanks largely to Melanie Allen's superb set, but his direction of a frankly variable cast is much less sure... would it kill them to slow down and listen to one other more often? Fortunately, the better actors make the piece glow and Jim Dunk's warm and wise performance is a small miracle of compassion.
Lyric Studio, Hammersmith W6 (0181-741 2311)
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING
Cheek by Jowl and Sir Peter Hall both have productions of this marvellous comedy waiting in the wings, but the RSC heads them off at the pass with sparky Siobhan Redmond and Alex Jennings as Beatrice and Benedick, the nearest Shakespeare managed to get to a screwball comedy couple.
RSC, The Barbican EC1 (0171-638 8891)
Shakespeare's vicious villain finds himself relocated to a 1967 East End pub. The results of a sharply cut text are mixed, but Eddie Marsan's Richard mixes malice and innocence to hypnotic effect.
Pleasance Theatre, N7 (0171-609 1800)