A COUPLE of years ago three enterprising young women decided to set up theatrical shop above a pub in north London's Kentish Town. Within a year they had entered the realm of ''places to watch'', been nominated (and won) a Guinness Pub award - and promptly lost their home when the landlords decided too much of a good thing was against their principles.

Temporarily based at the tiny Finborough in Fulham and undeterred, Red Room - aka Lisa Goldman and Emma Schad - have just launched their latest batch of new plays, focused on the media, under the title of The Big Story. If the first double-bill is any thing to go by, we're in for a treat.

Robert Young's Surfing, a story of love on the Net coated with a dust of lesbianism and fantasy, is a tender paean to the power of the imagination, sweetly performed by Lizzie McPhee and directed by Goldman with a sure touch.

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But it is Anthony Neilson's The Censor which is a revelation. Tauter than a bow-string, Neilson (author of the controversial Penetrator at The Tron a few years ago) already has a reputation for spitting in the eye of prudery.

Centred here on the subject of pornography - a female film-maker entices a censor with charge over the destiny of her graphically explicit film into having sex with her on grounds of artistic and personal education - the play's extraordinary power, comes, ironically, entirely from restraint.

You may not agree with Neilson's conclusions but as a play of honesty, beauty of temper, and performed by Raquel Cassidy and Alastair Galbraith with infinite

scruple and mesmerising control, I've seen nothing finer this year.