Screen stars Catherine McCormack and Andrew Lincoln will headline the National Theatre cast next month in Simon Bowen's debut play, Free. The piece runs in the newly created, 100-seat Lyttelton Loft as part of the NT's five-month Transformation season of new works aimed at developing younger theatre makers and goers.

McCormack was Olivier-nominated for her supporting role in the National's 2000 production of All My Sons, while her other recent stage credits include A Lie of the Mind (Donmar), Kiss Me Like You Mean It (Soho) and Anna Weiss. Amongst McCormack's extensive film credits are Spy Game, Born Romantic, This Year's Love, Land Girls and Braveheart; on television, she's recently been seen in Armadillo and Love in the 21st Century.

Lincoln (pictured) has previously appeared on stage in Hushabye Mountain (Hampstead), Sugar Sugar (Bush) and Joe Penhall's award-winning Blue Orange at the National and in the West End. He's most familiar to TV audiences as 'Egg' from cult hit This Life as well as the lead in current series Teachers. Lincoln and McCormack are joined in the Free cast by Nicola Walker (The Dead Eye Boy, A Lie of the Mind, Passion Play), Stephen Beresford (Our Country's Good, Shopping and Fucking) and Dylan Brown.

In this savage contemporary play about restrictive urban living, a temp takes off, a head-hunter wins a Dreamcast, a father hires a boy and a daughter needs an escort. The successful and the damaged ricochet around the metropolis where emotion becomes a commodity with violent consequences.

Originally trained as an actor, author Simon Bowen is now under commission to acclaimed touring company Paines Plough. Free was selected for production at the National from the pile of 1,000 unsolicited manuscripts sent to the theatre each year.

The play is directed by Southwark Playhouse artistic director Thea Sharrock and designed by Rachel Blues. It is the second of eight plays mounted in the NT Loft space during the five-month Tranformation from May to September 2002.

- by Terri Paddock