Timothy West's Lear will succeed Derek Jacobi's Prospero into the West End's Old Vic, the theatre once renowned for its great Shakespearean performances from the likes of Olivier, Gielgud and Peggy Ashcroft. English Touring Theatre's production of King Lear will play from 18 March to 19 April 2003, following the Sheffield Crucible transfer of The Tempest - starring Jacobi and Daniel Evans, directed by Michael Grandage - which finishes its limited two-month run on 15 March.

The ETT production toured for three months in autumn 2002 to great acclaim, winning West a Manchester Evening News award for Best Actor. The actor's last outing in the classic Shakespeare tragedy was in 1997, playing Gloucester to Ian Holm's monarch in the acclaimed National theatre production that was also filmed for the BBC. His son, Samuel West, is currently in contention for Best Actor in the Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers' Choice Awards for his RSC Hamlet (to vote, click here).

A veteran of the RSC, National and the West End, Timothy West's other recent stage credits include ETT's The Master Builder, Luther at the National and, appearing opposite his wife Prunella Scales, The Birthday Party and The External. His many television appearances have included Brass, Murder in Mind and Bedtime, while on film, he's been seen in Iris, The Day of the Jackal, Joan of Arc and Ever After.

On tour, West was joined in the cast of King Lear by Dominic Rickhards (Coronation St and Night and Day), David Cardy (Birds Of A Feather), Garry Cooper (film of Beautiful Thing), Patrick Drury (Father Ted) and Jessica Turner (TV's Dr Finlay and Mill on the Floss).

For this new production of King Lear, ETT's artistic director Stephen Unwin has radically simplified the text of Shakespeare's masterpiece - in terms of both stage directions and punctuation - with the aim of allowing actors, directors and other readers to approach the play afresh. The production is directed by Unwin and designed by Neil Warmington, with costumes by Mark Bouman, lighting by Bruno Poet and sound by Olly Fox.

English Touring Theatre was seen in the West End last year with the premiere of Peter Gill's The York Realist, transferred to the Royal Court and on to the West End's Strand Theatre, which has been nominated for two Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers' Choice Awards.

- by Terri Paddock