British television and film star Kathy Burke will direct a new play by Jonathan Harvey at the Hampstead Theatre this month. Out in the Open, starring Linda Bassett, opens 20 March (previews from 15 March) and continues to 14 April 2001 before transferring to Birmingham.

Out in the Open deals with romantic love and loss and the limits of friendship. When Tony's partner Frankie died seven months ago, it felt good to be surrounded by close friends. But now that Tony's ready to move on, nobody seems very keen for him to do so - least of all Monica and Kevin who are guarding a secret which Frankie himself went to some lengths to hide.

Jonathan Harvey's credits include the award-winning Beautiful Thing, Swan Song, Hushabye Mountain, Babies, Rupert Street Lonely Hearts Club, Boom Bang-a-Bang and Guiding Star. Amongst his upcoming projects are Closer to Heaven, a new musical written with the Pet Shop Boys which is scheduled to open this spring at the Arts Theatre, and two new series of Gimme Gimme Gimme on TV.

Linda Bassett is currently appearing in the Royal Court's production of Caryl Churchill's Far Away at the Albery Theatre. Her other recent theatre work includes Five Kinds of Silence and East is East. She also starred in the award-winning film production of East is East.

Kathy Burke has worked with Harvey before, directing his Boom Bang-a-Bang at the Bush Theatre in 1995. She's best known for her TV performances in Gimme Gimme Gimme and numerous comedy series with Harry Enfield (particularly the sketches featuring Wayne and Waynetta Slob, and teenagers Kevin and Perry). On film, she has appeared in Kevin and Perry Go Large, Elizabeth, Nil by Mouth, Love Honour and Obey, This Year's Love and Dancing at Lughnasa.

Out in the Open, designed by Michael Taylor, is a co-production between the Hampstead and the Birmingham Repertory Theatre where it will play from 23 April to 19 May 2001.

At the Hampstead, Out in the Open will be followed by Philip Osment's Buried Alive, the story of a radical photo-journalist who's harbouring some deep family discord, directed by Steward Reid. A co-production with Plymouth's Theatre Royal, where it premieres this month, Buried Alive runs at the Hampstead from 18 April to 19 May.

- by Terri Paddock