Richard Eyre (pictured) will return to the National Theatre this spring with his first production since handing over the NT artistic directorship to current position-holder Trevor Nunn in 1997. Eyre will direct the world premiere of Nicholas Wright's new play Vincent in Brixton, which opens at the NT Cottesloe on 1 May 2002 (previews from 24 April).

Based on the true facts of painter Vincent Van Gogh's early life in London in the 19th century, Vincent in Brixton concerns the transforming effect of love, sex and artistic adventure. Dutch actor Jochum ten Haaf will make his British theatre debut as the young Van Gogh, who works for the London branch of an international firm of art dealers while renting a room in the Brixton house of an English widow.

Haaf appears opposite Clare Higgins whose many previous NT appearances include The Secret Rapture, King Lear, Richard II, The Absence of War and Sweet Bird of Youth, for which she won both the Olivier and Critics Circle Awards for Best Actress. Also in the cast are Paul Nicholls, Emma Handy and Emily Blunt (who has been nominated for a Award for Most Promising Newcomer for her West End debut in The Royal Family - click here to vote).

Wright and Eyre, who was the National's literary manager during Eyre's reign, collaborated on the book Changing Stages, an overview of 20th-century theatre that became the basis for Eyre's BBC television documentary series of the same name. Wright's other playwriting credits include Cressida, Mrs Klein and The Desert Air, as well as adaptations of Wedekind's Lulu, Ibsen's John Gabriel Borkman and Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author.

Eyre was director of the National from 1988 to 1997, during which time his many award-winning productions included The Absence of War, Amy's View, The Invention of Love and Guys and Dolls. Since stepping down as NT artistic director, Eyre has been anything but idle. In addition to the Changing Stages project, he's also made his film debut with Iris, starring Judi Dench and Kate Winslet, and will soon open a new Broadway production of Arthur Miller's The Crucible, starring Liam Neeson.

- by Terri Paddock