Juliet Stevenson will return to the London stage this spring to lead the world premiere production of Martin Crimp's new play. The Country opens at the Royal Court, now back in Sloane Square, on 16 May 2000, following previews from 11 May, and continues until 10 June.

Stevenson was seen last year in the National's production of Private Lives, as part of the Noel Coward centenary. On stage, she is perhaps best known for her Olivier Award-winning performance in the Royal Court's production of Ariel Dorfman's Death and the Maiden, one of the theatre's biggest hits of the 1990s. Stevenson's other recent stage credits include The Caucasian Chalk Circle, Burn This and The Duchess of Malfi. Her TV and film credits include Truly Madly Deeply, Drowning by Numbers, Cider with Rosie and The Politician's Wife.

The Country, Crimp's fifth play for the Royal Court, is described as a chilling, suggestive chamber piece, which unravels games of sexual politics, power and class while delving into the darker, sullied depths of life in the countryside.

Crimp's earlier plays for the Royal Court include Attempts on Her Life, Getting Attention and The Treatment. His adaptations include Moliere's The Misanthrope (recently seen at New York's CSC, with Uma Thurman) and Marivaux's The Triumph of Love (produced last year at the Almeida).

The Country is directed by Katie Mitchell, who directed The Oresteia, currently playing at the National's Cottesloe. The production is designed by Vicki Mortimer, with lighting by Paule Constable. Further casting has not yet been announced.

In other Royal Court casting news, actor Jim Carter - who was set to star in Jim Cartwright's new play, Hard Fruit, which opens in the Theatre Downstairs on 6 April - has injured himself and been forced to withdraw from the production. The cast for the new play about karate-obsessed hard men in a Northern town will now be Nicholas Woodeson, Alan Gear, Richard Hope, Gary Grant, Barry Howard and Hilda Braid.