Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot has been declared the most important play of the century in a poll taken by Britain's Royal National Theatre. It is part of its NT2000 project, in which the National surveyed over 800 playwrights, actors, directors, theatre professionals and arts journalists to nominate ten English language plays each which in their opinion were the most 'significant' plays of the century.

American plays feature strongly: in second and third place respectively are Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman and Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire; while Miller turns up again at sixth place again for The Crucible. At fifth place, Eugene O'Neill is placed for Long Day's Journey into Night. The only play in the Top 10 that was also written within the last decade is also American: Tony Kushner's Angels in America shares ninth place with Harold Pinter's The Caretaker.

The only other English plays in the Top Ten are Noel Coward's Private Lives and Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (equal at 7th position).

The Top 100 plays selected will form the basis of a series of platform readings over the next year of extracts from the chosen works or discussions with original cast members and playwrights. Controversially, however, musicals were excluded from selection, even though musicals such as Guys and Dolls and Oklahoma! have been huge money spinning hits for the National, with the latter due to transfer to the West End's Lyceum Theatre in January. In the words of producer Bill Kenwright, the decision is 'madness - not only have musicals been significant in the history of the theatre, they have also been significant in the history of the National'.

Mark Shenton