Alex Jennings and Brian Blessed will star in Trevor Nunn's new production of John Vanbrugh's Restoration comedy, The Relapse. It opens in the Olivier, the National's largest theatre, on 20 July following previews from 12 July 2002.

First seen in 1696, The Relapse or "Virtue in Danger", was Vanbrugh's first play. It is a tale of two marriages, one about to fail and the other about to start. Lord Foppington, who has recently bought his peerage, arranges to marry a wealthy country heiress to go with it. But before he can meet her, his younger brother arrives on the scene pretending to be him. Meanwhile, Loveless, a reformed philanderer, arrives in London from the country with his loyal wife Amanda, and they find themselves swept up the intrigues of their friends, Berinthia and Worth.

Alex Jennings, who plays Foppington, has become a regular at the National of late. He was seen here last year in Albert Speer and is about to play Leontes in The Winter's Tale. His many roles for the RSC include the leads in Hamlet, Richard II and Peer Gynt, for which he won a Best Actor Olivier. Jennings' other theatre credits The Importance of Being Earnest, The Liar and Too Clever By Half, for which he won a second Olivier and a Critics Circle Award for Best Actor.

Brian Blessed's theatre credits include, for the RSC, Hamlet, Henry V and Richard III, and in the West End, Old Deuteronomy in Cats, Incident at Vichy, The Exorcism, Metropolis and, most recently, the musical, Hard Times, at the Theatre Royal Haymarket.

Jennings and Blessed are joined in the cast by Paul Bradley and Maxine Peake. The Relapse is designed by Sue Blane with lighting by Paul Pyant, music by Steven Edis and choreography by David Bolger.

- by Terri Paddock