The fox goes free

Heather Neill

Matthew Warchus makes a spectacular debut at the National Theatre with his frenetic, comic, ironic production of Volpone. Michael Gambon plays the miserly old fox in a pale clown's face, using a variety of accents (this Volpone relishes his deceptions like an old ham).

There is cruelty beneath the comedy and a satirical edge to the whole production - making a god of wealth inevitably causes suffering - exemplified in the hints at animal and bird caricatures suggested by the characters' names and especially in Simon Russell Beale's fly Mosca, a worthy foil to Gambon. (0171 928 2252) Coriolanus, last year's Stratford production, has transferred to the Barbican.

David Thacker's exciting direction emphasises the psychological rather than the political despite its setting during the French Revolution, This provides Toby Stephens with the opportunity to swagger like a spoilt public schoolboy still desperate to impress his mother (Volumnia, finely played by Caroline Blakiston). His self-regarding delivery is well suited to this interpretation which culminates in his finding an attractive mirror-image in Barry Lynch's dashing Aufidius. (0171 638 4141) Lear's Daughters (Belladonna Theatre Company at the Battersea Arts Centre until September 17) provides an imaginary exploration of the fraught, loveless childhood and adolescence of Goneril, Regan and Cordelia. A spirited, physical production (despite the emphasis on text), this could provide students already well up on Lear with plenty to argue about.(0171 223 2223).

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