William Dudley's picture book sets might overwhelm a lesser production but not the precise acting and Jeremy Sams' direction of John O'Keeffe's 1790s comedy Wild Oats. Anton Lesser leads vividly as roving actor Jack Rover, but it's glory all around.
Ian Richardson gives a relaxed yet dangerous performance in Moli re's The Miser. Seen at Chichester, the modern high-security sets gave a new twist to safe theatre. Ranjit Bolt's translation shows him witty in prose and verse, though in the summer the production did not quite escape its own cleverness - more head than heart.
Last year Sue Townsend's The Queen and I seemed a bad play. But if viewed from director Max Stafford-Clark's perspective not as a royal family joke but a play about council estate life it acquires some of the ferocity of Jacobean comedy.
Two visual delights: Foursight Theatre have come on mightily in Boadicea: The Red-Bellied Queen, family tensions at a cross-roads of ancient history. And Silviu Purcarete's Phaedra, an astonishing vision of moon-mad love with startling use of chorus returns for just two nights in Leicester. Midlanders, don't miss.
Some theatres are managing to forge new identities and new audiences. The repertory theatre must hold to the principles on which it was founded, but that does not mean the end of the century should see carbon copies of work first seen at the beginning. Nottingham and West Yorkshire Playhouses are rightly considered leaders in reaching out to young people. Dance is a strong element (especially at Nottingham, which has also embraced alternative comedy). There's a growing internationalism too. Leeds has just seen work from South Africa, Jamaica and Romania, while Nottingham has opened its autumn season with a Romanian-directed Shakespeare.
Then there is Birmingham, which has just completed a season of boldly designed and strongly directed plays, a rare post-war revival plus the staple diet of Miller, Shaw and Wilde. Birmingham was also brave enough to postpone a new studio play which rehearsals showed needed more work; the studio premi red Lisa Evans's version of Anne Bront 's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, one of the limited number of novel adaptations that truly used the stage to make theatrical points.
The best the regions offered was as good as that anywhere. For example, Helena Kaut-Howson's The Rose Tattoo, at Mold, at once lyrical and hugely funny. Or the superb blend of classic (Kleist) and new (Blake Morrison), an old story given new local habitation and name: The Cracked Pot was a joint effort between the West Yorkshire Playhouse and Northern Broadsides and was a joy that must surely be given again some day.
Exeter: Northcott (01392 493493) Paul Godfrey's The Modern Husband September 28 - October 7 is based on Henry Fielding's 1730 play; it will tour with coproducers ATC. The Grapes of Wrath October 12-28, The Woman in Black November 2-18.
Bristol: Old Vic (0117 987 7877) Three Sisters to October 7 (after which Max Stafford-Clark's production tours with Out of Joint), Friel's Translations October 12 - November 4. Renegades November 9 - December 2, a new play about a security guard with attitude by Bristol regular Catherine Johnson. Out of Joint return with The Break of Day January 30 - February 3 (see tours).
Salisbury: Playhouse (01722 320333) An Ideal Husband October 5-28. Youth Company Stage 65 in Durrenmatt's The Visit November 1-4, The Crucible November 9 - December 2, The Norman Conquests January 18 - February 24, with whole trilogies on the last three Saturdays. Salberg Studio: Actor-writer Jack Shepherd's Comic Cuts November 14 - December 2.
Southampton: Nuffield (01703 671771) Blithe Spirit October 5 - November 4 comes in from Ipswich, All's Well That Ends Well November 9 - December 2 (Spiral, the Nuffield's education arm, offer two-hour pre-show workshops).
Newbury: Watermill (01635 46044) William Douglas-Home's Lloyd George Knew My Father to October 7 has local resonance with its tale of bypass protest, Othello October 10 - November 4.
Basingstoke: Haymarket (01256 465566) Early Ayckbourn Time and Time Again to October 7, Sleuth October 26 - November 25, Private Lives January 11 - February 10.
Leatherhead: Thorndike (01372 377677) Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert's comedy-thriller Catch Me If You Can to October 7. Nick Fisher's version of The Cabinet of Dr Caligari October 9-28. Another thriller, Karoline Leach's The Mysterious Mr Love October 31 - November 18.
Hornchurch: Queen's (01708 443333) Veronica's Room to September 30. Up on the Roof October 4-28. Teechers November 1-25.
Southend on Sea: Palace (01702 342564) Rod Beacham's marriage drama No Big Deal September 25-30. Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell October 5-21. Jonathan Harvey's Babies November 2-18. Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None January 13 - February 3.
Colchester: Mercury (01206 573948) Bedroom Farce to September 30, Quicksilver in The Giant Prince October 4-7. Tim Firth's Neville's Island October 12-28, Twelfth Night November 2-25, Fever Pitch January 9-13, The Woman in Black January 16 - February 3.
Ipswich: Wolsey (01473 253725) Blithe Spirit to September 30, Shared Experience in O'Neill's Desire Under the Elms October 5-14, Jim Cartwright's The Rise and Fall of Little Voice October 19 - November 4, Aspects of Love November 9 - December 2, then William Humble's Virtuoso January 25 - February 10.
Watford: Palace (01923 225671) Helen Edmundson's version of Anna Karenina October 6-28, French Without Tears November 10 - December 2 and Karen Hope's acclaimed thriller Foreign Lands February 2-24.
Northampton: Royal (01604 32533) Jane Martin's kidnap drama Keely Du to September 30, The Winter's Tale October 6-28, Neil Simon's They're Playing Our Song, November 3 - December 2. Studio: Oleanna November 9-25.
Leicester: Haymarket (0116 253 9797) Mack Mabel to October 14, Phaedra October 20-21. Studio: Paines Plough in The Strange Passenger October 16-21. Lorca resetting A Yearning October 31 - November 4, with Tamasha and Birmingham Rep. Musical Night Train to Poona November 9-25.
Nottingham: Playhouse (0115 941 9419) The Tempest to September 30, Barry Simner's The Cabinet of Doktor Caligari October 5-21, Crispin Whittell's Party Tricks November 2-25. Also a visit from the Royal National Theatre with The Machine Wreckers November 8-11 and Black Mime Theatre plus the Playhouse in Dirty Reality II November 13-18, at a city centre venue.
Derby: Playhouse: (01332 363275) Fever Pitch September 25-30, The Woman in Black October 6-28, Richard III November 3-25, Tess of the D'Urbervilles February 23 - March 16. Studio: Comic Cuts October 20 - November 11.
WEST MIDLANDS SOUTH WALES
Milford Haven: Torch (01646 695267) Cat on a Hot Tin Roof September 26 - October 14.
Worcester: Swan (01905 27322) Up on the Roof to September 30, I Have Been Here Before October 5-28, Private Lives November 2-25, The Merchant of Venice February 8 - March 2.
Coventry: Belgrade (01203 553055) Hamlet to September 30, It Runs in the Family October 2-7, Trevor Griffiths' Comedians October 11-28, Tribute to the Blues Brothers October 30 - November 4 and The Rocky Horror Show November 7-11.
Birmingham: Repertory Theatre (0121 236 4455) Macbeth to October 14, The Way of the World October 27 November 18, The Entertainer February 2 - March 2. Studio: A Yearning September 25 - October 14. Debbie Issitt's fantasy play Johnny Watkins Walks on Water November 21-25 (and regional tour November 1 - December 9).
NORTH WEST ENGLANDNORTH WALES
North Staffordshire: New Victoria (01782 717962) Priestley-based musical The Good Companions to October 14. Table Manners October 18 - November 4; January 29-30, Living Together November 8-25; January 31, February 2; Round and Round the Garden January 3-13, then the entire Norman Conquests February 3, starting 10.30am. Macbeth opens February 7.
Chester: Gateway (01244 340392) Confusions to October 21, then tour, Ben Elton's Gasping November 3-25.
Mold: Theatr Clwyd (01352 755114) Loot to October 7, The Tempest October 17 - November 11, from Nottingham.
Emlyn Williams Theatre: Timberlake Wertenbaker's Our Country's Good to October 14, D H Lawrence's The Daughter in Law November 17 - December 16.
Liverpool: Everyman (0151 709 4776) Macbeth September 28 - October 28, Len Pantin and Michele Woo's Standing Up November 21-22, and Fred Lawless's play about Pete Best November 23-24.
Playhouse (0151 709 8363) The Cabinet of Dr Caligari to October 7, No Trams to Lime Street October 17 - November 25, The Woman Who Cooked Her Husband November 28 - December 16.
Lancaster: Dukes (01524 66645) Cabaret to October 21.
Manchester: Library (0161 274 4400) Jonathan Harvey's Rupert Street Lonely Hearts Club September 27 - October 14, Romeo and Juliet October 25 - November 18.
Library Theatre (0161 236 7110) Neil Simon's Laughter on the 23rd Floor to October 14, The Winter's Tale October 26 - November 25, Brecht's Galileo February 15 - March 16.
Forum Theatre (0161 437 9663) Fever Pitch October 24-28.
Royal Exchange (0161 833 9833) Tartuffe to October 14, Miss Julie October 19 - November 18, Iain Heggie's An Experienced Woman Gives Advice November 23 - December 16, The Rivals February 9 - March 23.
Bolton: Octagon (01204 52066) Kes! The Musical to October 14, A Midsummer Night's Dream October 19 - November 18, Talking Heads 2 January 11 - February 16.
Oldham: Coliseum (0161 624 2829) Strippers October 4-28, Happy Jack November 8-25, Mary O'Malley's Oy Vay Maria! January 24 - February 10. Studio: Female Parts October 11 - November 4, Peter Mottley's After Agincourt December 6-23.
YORKSHIRE NORTH EAST ENGLAND
Sheffield: Crucible (0114 276 9922) Goldoni's The Servant of Two Masters October 6-28, Macbeth November 3-25. Studio: Paines Plough in The Strange Passenger October 3-7, Howard Barker's Judith October 31-November 4, Crucible Theatre in Education in Mary Cooper's play about lossTidelines November 7-11, A Yearning November 16-18.
Leeds: West Yorkshire Playhouse (0113 244 2111): Quarry King Lear to October 28, John Godber's Lucky Sods November 2-December 9. Courtyard: Richard Cameron's With Every Beat to October 14, Wole Soyinka's The Beatification of Area Boy October 26-November 25.
Harrogate: Theatre (01423 502116) The School for Scandal to September 30, Godber's On the Piste October 5-28, Othello November 2-18, Jose Rivera's Marisol November 23-December 9, The Diary of Anne Frank January 25-February 10.
York: Theatre Royal (01904 623568) Cabaret to October 21, Twelfth Night October 27-November 18, A View from the Bridge March 7-23.
Scarborough: Stephen Joseph Theatre in the Round (01723 370541) Talking Heads to October 21, Stephen Jeffrey's Hard Times October 25-November 25, Ayckbourn's Just Between Ourselves, January 5-February 3.
Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Newcastle Playhouse (0191) 2305151 Footsbarn in The Odyssey September 26-29. Gulbenkian Studio: Northern Stage in Lorca, October 26-28. Theatre Sans Fronti res in La Tulipe Noire November 1-4, adapted from Dumas.
Musselburgh: Brunton Theatre Company (0131 665 2240) Driving Miss Daisy visits Dunbar Corn Exchange September 27-30, Haddington Town House October 5-7. They're Playing Our Song visits Haddington Town House October 25-28, Musselburgh Old Town Hall November 1-4, Dunbar Corn Exchange 8-11, North Berwick Marine Hotel November 14-17.
Edinburgh: Royal Lyceum (0131 229 9697) Our Country's Good to October 7, The Caucasian Chalk Circle October 13-November 4, Hamlet November 14-17.
Glasgow: Citizens (0141 429 0022) Shadow of A Gunman October 6-28, TAG in Lanark November 1-18. Circle Studio: Coward's A Song at Twilight October 5-28, Look Back in Anger November 9-December 2. Stalls Studio: Italian verismo The She Wolf by Giovanni Verga October 4-28.
Perth: Theatre (01738 621031) The Boy Friend to September 30, Our Day Out October 6-21, Godber's April in Paris October 27-November 11, Bedroom Farce November 17-December 2.
Dundee: Rep Theatre (01382 223530) Jessie Kesson's novel, adapted by Anne Downie, The White Bird Passes to October 14, Boilerhouse in a devised derivation of Buchner's Lenz, No New Miracles October 17-21, the Laclos-Hampton Dangerous Liaisons October 31-November 18.