Actor Nigel Planer will make his playwriting debut next month. His comedy On the Ceiling about the painting of the Sistine Chapel in 1508, starring Ron Cook and Ralf Little (pictured together), will premiere at Birmingham Rep, where it will run from 14 to 28 May 2005 ahead of a West End transfer.

The man the Pope has put in charge of painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is simply not up to the job. He’s a sculptor with next to no experience of painting and has never done anything on this scale. He's all over the place - when he remembers to turn up to work. And who has to cover for him? Who has to put in all the hours, teach him his craft, patch up his mistakes, deal with his tantrums and get the job done? Like any big project, it's the little guys, the professionals, the men who've been doing this kind of thing all their lives.

Cook (whose recent credits include Howard Katz on stage, The Merchant of Venice, Chocolat, Charlotte Gray) and Little (Billy Liar on stage, TV’s The Royle Family, Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps) play the Renaissance little guys forgotten by history.

On the Ceiling is Planer's first play. The actor is best-remembered by TV fans for his 1980s roles in The Young Ones and The Comic Strip Presents. More recently, he’s been seen on stage in musicals including Chicago and We Will Rock You and plays like Feelgood and Darwin in Malibu. Planer was also a co-founder of London's Comedy Store and Comic Strip clubs and has authored several books – amongst them, I, An Actor, a spoof memoir of fictitious luvvie actor Nicholas Craig, who he later played in a one-man show of the same name – and, with his brother Roger, has scripted and voiced over 100 episodes of the Magic Roundabout.

On the Ceiling will be directed by Jennie Darnell and designed by Matthew Wright, with lighting by Neil Austin, sound by Fergus O’Hare and music by Adam Cork.

Although a London venue has not yet been announced, On the Ceiling will be the latest in an increasing number of Birmingham Rep transfers which in recent years have included Of Mice and Men, Fuddy Meers, The Old Masters, The Witches and, just opened this week in the West End, both Elmina's Kitchen and The Birthday Party. Further ahead, Peter Quilter’s Glorious, starring Maureen Lipman as “the worst singer in the world”, is also due to hit London after a September premiere in Birmingham (See News, 2 Mar 2005).

- by Terri Paddock