Clive Owen (pictured) and Prunella Scales are to star in a major new West End version of Peter Nichols' A Day in the Death of Joe Egg this Autumn. The play will run at the New Ambassador's Theatre, with previews from 25 September 2001 and an opening night scheduled for 1 October. This will be the first major London staging of the show since the original 1960s production.

The drama is centred around a couple, Bri and Sheila, and their severely mentally handicapped child (nicknamed Joe Egg) aged 10. The parents invent conversations and personality traits for the child, even though it seems unable to communicate in any way itself. As Bri and Sheila begin to fabricate scenarios which may have led to Joe Egg's predicament, their marriage comes under increasing strain. Combining elements of tragedy with grim humour, the play is widely recognised as dealing sympathetically with the difficulties faced by parents and carers in such a situation.

Clive Owen has previously performed in Joe Egg at the King's Head Theatre, Islington directed by Lisa Forrell. A graduate of RADA, Owen played in the Young Vic Theatre Company and has also established himself on screen in such films as Close my Eyes, Croupier and Bent. In 1997 he appeared again on the London stage in Patrick Marber’s Closer. Prunella Scales has been performing on both stage and screen since 1951, with a theatrical inclination towards the classics. Known to audiences worldwide as Sybil Fawlty in the comedy Fawlty Towers, her movie work includes The Boys From Brazil and Howard's End.

The new Joe Egg will be directed by Laurence Boswell, who studied drama at Manchester University alongside Ben Elton whose Popcorn he later directed. Boswell was previously the artistic director of London's Gate Theatre, a position which gained him wide acclaim. The design will come courtesy of Es Devlin, currently winning plaudits for her work on the Jonathan Harvey/Pet Shop Boys collaboration Closer To Heaven. Later this year, the Donmar Warehouse is also expected to revive another of Nichols' plays, Privates on Parade, directed by Michael Grandage.

The 1967 version of Joe Egg won the Evening Standard Award for Best Play, with a Tony Award for Best Revival bestowed in 1985. The 1971 film interpretation, adapted by Nichols himself, starred Alan Bates, Janet Suzman and Peter Bowles. It was directed by Peter Medak (who went on to make Let Him Have It and Romeo Is Bleeding) and won a United Nations film award.

- by Gareth Thompson