The Paris-based British screen star Kristin Scott Thomas (pictured) is signed up to make a rare stage appearance this spring in a new production of Anton Chekhov's classic Three Sisters, directed by Michael Blakemore. Though exact dates have yet to be confirmed, the production is due to start performances in March 2003 at the West End's Playhouse Theatre, which has recently undergone a change in ownership (see News, 20 Nov 2002).

Scott Thomas will play Masha in the play about three women stuck in a Russian army outpost, dreaming about freedom, romance and Moscow. The actress is best known for her work in films such as Four Weddings and a Funeral, The English Patient, Angels and Insects, Bitter Moon, The Horse Whisperer and Gosford Park. She has also starred in a number of French films, having lived in Paris, where she studied drama, for much of her adult life.

According to today's Daily Mail newspaper, Scott Thomas will be joined on stage by Kate (daughter of Richard) Burton and Madeleine Worrall as sisters Olga and Irina. Burton appears regularly on Broadway, where she was nominated last year for a Tony Award for Hedda Gabler. Amongst Worrall's UK stage credits are RSC productions of The Tempest and The Merchant of Venice.

Also in Blakemore's Three Sisters cast are Robert Bathurst (best known from TV's Cold Feet, whose stage credits include Blakemore's production of Michael Frayn's Alarms and Excursions), comedian Eric Sykes (seen last year in the West End in Ray Cooney's Caught in the Net) , James Fleet (Charlotte Gray, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Sense and Sensibility, on stage The Late Middle Classes) and Susannah Wise (Where Do We Live and, last year, Blakemore's production of Life After George).

The Australian-born director Blakemore - whose Broadway transfer of Kiss Me Kate won Evening Standard, Critics Circle and Awards last year - was awarded an OBE in the Queen's New Year's Honours List this month. His other recent stage productions have included the National's Copenhagen (another multi award winner, on both sides of the Atlantic), Alarms and Excursions and Mr Peters' Connections.

Like Chekhov's other major plays The Cherry Orchard, The Seagull and Uncle Vanya, his Three Sisters, written in 1901, is regularly revived. Major UK productions have been seen in recent years at the West End's Whitehall Theatre (care of Dominic Dromgoole's Oxford Stage Company), at Richmond's Orange Tree and at Chichester Festival, while the National's artistic director-designate Nicholas Hytner has just announced that Katie Mitchell (who directed a Award-nominated revival of Chekhov's Ivanov last autumn) will bring the play to the NT Lyttelton, in a new version by Nicholas Wright, later this year (See News, 23 Jan 2003).

The Playhouse is currently dark and due to undergo refurbishment. Note: booking has not yet opened for Three Sisters.

- by Terri Paddock