As previously tipped (See The Goss, 9 Dec 2005), Timothy West (pictured) will star in English Touring Theatre’s new revival of Alan Bennett’s 1977 play The Old Country which will have a six-week regional tour starting next month before transferring directly to the West End’s Trafalgar Studios, where it will open on 20 March 2006 (previews from 13 March) and continue for a limited season to 16 May 2006.

West plays Hilary, a British spy in exile. When his sister and newly knighted brother-in-law come to visit him and his wife, all are forced to re-examine their allegiances.

West was last seen in the West End in 2003 playing the title role in ETT’s production of King Lear, also directed by ETT artistic director Stephen Unwin. That was the company’s last transfer prior to a financial crisis that threatened to shut it down (See News, 19 Nov 2003). However, The Old Country will be ETT’s second transfer in 2006. As reported earlier this week, its Hamlet, starring Ed Stoppard and Anita Dobson, will open at the New Ambassadors on 20 February 2006 (See News, 3 Jan 2006).

A veteran of the RSC, National and the West End, West's other recent stage credits include The Master Builder, Henry IV (ETT), Luther (National), The Life of Galileo, National Hero 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.

In The Old Country, West will be joined by Simon Williams (The Constant Wife, Boys Will Be Boys, Nobody’s Perfect, The Winslow Boy on stage, TV’s Upstairs, Downstairs), Jean Marsh (TV’s The House of Elliot and Upstairs, Downstairs) and Susan Tracy (Richard II, Anything Goes in the West End). The cast also includes Rebecca Charles and Tim Delap.

Co-produced by Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, The Old Country will open in Guildford on 1 February 2006 and will then visit Brighton, Bath, Malvern and Richmond prior to the West End. Currently in Studio 1 at Trafalgar Studios, the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Gunpowder Season concludes its schedule on 25 February 2006 (See News, 26 Aug 2005).

- by Terri Paddock