TOSCA and MADAME BUTTERFLY at the Everyman in Cheltenham

★★★★☆ The ingredients of Tosca are easy to identify. But the emotional roller-coaster they can produce when performed with true artistry and passion is something else. So I’m glad to report that this Russian State Opera production, dug deep into the well of feeling that is Puccini’ genius . . . The aching beauty of Larisa Akhmetova’s aria “I lived for art, I lived for love” will long remain with me.

A DANGEROUS WOMAN at the Door, Birmingham Rep

★★★☆☆ As one of six women in the family, Man struggles to maintain her own integrity when put under constant pressure by her parents and her five sisters. From career choices to relationships, nothing in her life is safe from scrutiny . . . Plays like this are important in reminding us that we aren’t as progressive as we like to think.

DRACULA: THE BLOODY TRUTH at the Redgrave Theatre, Bristol

★★★★☆ This takes as its starting point the idea that Bram Stoker’s famous novel is a romanticised version of real-life events. Professor Van Helsing is furious with Stoker and is determined to put the record straight, so he has hired three actors to help him explain what really happened.

THE REAL THING at Bath Theatre Royal

★★★☆☆ The play starts with a double dose of fiction – a fiction within a fiction; a fictional couple conjured up by a fictional writer whose fictional wife plays the fictional wife of…well you get the idea. All the signposts tell us we are in Stoppard territory. . . This is vintage Stoppard with all the trademark wordplay, philosophising, clever plotting and complex characters.

THE RIVER at the Loco Klub, Bristol

★★☆☆☆ The nub of the thing is The Man’s (Jack Hammett) relationship with a sequence of women, each of whom has been brought to the retreat for the purposes of seduction and who in turn are annoyed to find evidence of the others – namely a drawing of a woman in a red dress.

THE CARETAKER at Bristol Old Vic

★★★★☆ This is, by any measure, an intelligent, satisfying and enjoyable reworking of Pinter. Pinter without the ‘esque’ perhaps, yet in Mr Naiambana one in which the portrayal of an iconic character will stand as measure for those that follow.

HEATHER at Tobacco Factory Theatres, Bristol

★★★★☆ Heather is a short and fiendishly clever two-hander structured in three distinct parts . . . Charlotte Melia is fascinating in the title role, peeling away layer after layer to reveal… what? I’m not telling. Heather lasts less than an hour, but it will leave you thinking for much longer.