On stage in London
Cymbeline, The Winter's Tale, and The Tempest: Peter Hall brings his 15-year tenure as artistic chief of National Theater to a close by staging this trilogy of late works by Shakespeare. Hall has long been noted for his superlative skills in handling the Bard, and these current offerings don't disappoint. Using the same actors in each, Hall concentrates on conveying the text as clearly and (for the most part) unfussily as possible. The result is three renderings that are intelligible and entertaining - the only sure test of well-staged Shakespeare. If one were to choose, ``Cymbe-line'' is the strongest, while ``The Tempest'' is slightly hindered by a weak Miranda and Ariel plus overzealous use of masks. Of note is Tim Pigott-Smith as Leontes in ``The Winter's Tale,'' Iachimo in ``Cymbeline'' and the side-splittingly funny Trinculo in ``The Tempest.'' Returns July 1 after a tour in the USSR and Japan. Tel. (01) 638-8891. The Fifteen Streets: Based on Catherine Cook-son's novel, this play offers a piquant slice of northeast England's history during the early part of this century. The streets in question are in the impoverished part of Tyneside. Adapted and directed by fellow northerner Rob Bettinson, the show creates the insular mood of an Irish Catholic community whose members must make the best of what they've got. Top-notch acting and Bettinson's intelligent hand save the show from sentimentality and make it a joy to watch. At the Playhouse. Tel. (01) 839-4401.
Uncle Vanya: Chekhov fans will revel in this revival at the Vaudeville. Using a sparkling new English translation by Michael Frayn, the production draws together some of Britain's finest talent. Michael Gambon (garlanded with all this year's major drama awards for stage and television), as Vanya, brings to his performance a kind of fierce desolation that makes the anguish of his effete life desperately poignant. Veteran stage director Michael Blakemore leads the cast through an interpretation that's very relevant: This ``Vanya'' makes one laugh, snivel a bit - and think. Tel. (01) 836-9987/5645.
Fashion: At the Barbican, the Royal Shakespeare Company offers a modern work by Doug Lucie. It's as amusing as it is hard hitting. An advertising agency run by an overbearing workaholic (masterfully played by Brian Cox) has undertaken to sell Margaret Thatcher and the Tories to the British people in a general election. Politics are irrelevant to the advertising executive; wheeling, dealing and staying on top in his own narrow world are his only concerns. Lucie could have used a firmer hand on the story line, but the play offers lacerating insights into situations and character. Tel. (01) 638-8891.