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Donmar Warehouse

Passion, Donmar Warehouse, London

Passion is the show that divides even Sondheim devotees. There are die-hard admirers who find the score – which instead of songs offers a nagging network of motifs and internal echoes – in singularly short supply of the eponymous commodity. Its gothic story has been dismissed as simultaneously distasteful and incredible. But Jamie Lloyd's Donmar revival of this rebarbative 1994 musical makes a compelling case for its power to unsettle and affront.

Polar Bears, Donmar Warehouse, London

Mark Haddon made his name with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, a novel about the break-up of a marriage as seen through the eyes of a teenager with Asperger's syndrome. When I heard that he had written Polar Bears, a play about the stresses of loving a female with a bipolar disorder, my first cynical reaction was to wonder whether he has started to collect disorders for creative exploitation across the art forms.

Life is a Dream, Donmar Warehouse, London

Have you heard the Chinese sage's story about the man who dreamt he was a butterfly and then woke up to wonder if he was, in fact, a butterfly dreaming he was a man? A compelling variation on this theme of the confusion between illusion and reality is dramatised in Life Is a Dream, the 1635 play by the great golden age Spanish dramatist, Calderó*de la Barca. Set in Poland, the play focuses on Segismundo, the young heir to the throne who has spent his life imprisoned in a tower because omens foretold that he would one day overthrow his father, the king. As in Oedipus Rex, this paternal insurance policy backfires. The monarch's neurotic desire to outwit fate is itself outsmarted by circumstance, although here a very qualified happy ending is reached.

Mirren to tread boards after six-year absence

Dame Helen Mirren is to return to the stage for the first time in six years. The Oscar-winning actress, 63, will star in a three-month run of Jean Racine's 17th-century drama, Phèdre, at the National Theatre.

You write the reviews: Piaf, Donmar Warehouse, London

Before sex and drugs were co-opted by rock'n'roll, they belonged to Edith Piaf. A diminutive woman whose looks were far from stunning, Piaf rose from singing on the street to become the highest-paid performer in the world, while engaging in countless affairs and, later, developing a morphine addiction. In this new production of Pam Gems's 1978 play-with-music, the Donmar has struck gold.

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