Peter Bayliss joins Colin Firth amongst the stars taking part in this year's UK-wide Japan 2001 festival. Bayliss will play the lead role in a new Anglo-Japanese production of Amaterasu, a theatre and dance piece based on Japanese mythology which receives its world premiere this month in London. Amaterasu plays at the West End's Theatre Royal Drury Lane from 24 to 26 May 2001.

In a career stretching back to John Gielgud's Hamlet, Bayliss' most recent London stage appearances were in Thelma Holt's Hamlet (Queen's Theatre), A Midsummer Night's Dream (Almeida) and My Fair Lady (Adelphi). His film credits include The Red Shoes, Darling, From Russia with Love and Alice in Wonderland.

Amaterasu contrasts the emotions and societies of Japan and Britain by intertwining the visual Kabuki and Noh art forms with the verbal works of Shakespeare.

In addition to Bayliss, the cast includes Japanese film actress Masaya Kato, supermodel Sayoko Yamaguchi, female Taiko drummer Miyuki Ikedi and classical-crossover cellist Matthew Barley. The City Ballet of London, choreographed by Cathy Marston, also features. Amaterasu is directed by Tomio Mohri, who also designed the sets and costumes. The original score is by Kazuhiko Kato and the English script by Chris Mosdell.

The Japan 2001 festival, which kicked off this month, is a major year-long programme of contemporary and traditional Japanese arts and entertainment, which is intended to strengthen existing UK-Japan relationships and create new cultural links. The joint patrons of the festival are the Prince of Wales and the Crown Prince of Japan.

Colin Firth will play Hamlet in an Anglo-Japanese theatrical exchange venture at the Riverside Studios, Hammersmith. The production will run from 30 January to 2 March 2002.

- by Terri Paddock