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The Bard's the thing on the London stage these days, with a stream of productions competing with the Royal Shakespeare Company along with a renewed confidence in Shakespeare's selling power. In 1989-90, the government-subsidized RSC will mount 14 Shakespeare productions, but the Bard's work can also be seen at the West End in current productions of "Richard II" and "Richard III," both starring Derek Jacobi, and in an early April staging of "Much Ado About Nothing" with Alan Bates and Felicity Kendal. Dustin Hoffman will make his London stage debut in June as Shylock in "The Merchant of Venice," and in the fall, Michael Gambon who starred in TV's "Singing Detective" will play Othello. Also, the English Shakespeare Company at the Old Vic is staging a seven-play cycle of history plays under the collective title "The Wars of the Roses."

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