Kristin Scott Thomas and Douglas Hodge will leave Michael Blakemore's West End production Three Sisters at the end of next week. The stars, who play Masha and Andrei in Michael Blakemore's acclaimed revival, give their final performance on Sunday 18 May 2003 and will be replaced from Tuesday 20 May by Susannah Harker and Stephen Ballantyne.

A spokesperson for producers at Ambassadors Theatre Group told this morning that Scott Thomas and Hodge had only ever been contracted until 18 May and that cast replacements had been planned for the recently announced extension to 29 June (See News, 24 Apr 2003).

However, there has been other confusion over the scheduling. Three Sisters opened at the West End's Playhouse Theatre on 3 April 2003, following previews from 20 March. When the production was officially announced back in February (See News, 12 Feb 2003), publicity material stated that the production - with its original cast - would have a "strictly limited ten-week season" and bookings were being taken up to 31 May, rather than 18 May.

Other members of the original cast continue in their parts with Kate Burton (as Olga), Madeleine Worrall (Irina), Eric Sykes (Ferapont), Robert Bathurst (Vershinin), James Fleet (Kulygin), Sebastian Bates (Fedotik), Susannah Wise (Natasha), David Antrobus (Rode), Tom Beard (Solyony), David Burke (Chebutykin) and Margery Mason (Anfisa).

Susannah Harker's film and television credits include Pride and Prejudice, Waking the Dead and Intimacy while on stage she's been in Uncle Vanya, Tartuffe, The Importance of Being Earnest, The Browning Version and, earlier this year, The Little Black Book at Riverside Studios. Stephen Ballantyne's stage credits include Albert Speer and Strangers on a Train. On TV, he's appeared in EastEnders and The Waiting Time.

The Playhouse's Three Sisters is a new version of the Chekhov by Christopher Hampton. The production is designed by Robin Don, with costumes by John Bright, lighting by Mark Henderson, sound by Paul Arditti and music by Richard Storry. It's produced by Howard Panter for the Ambassador Theatre Group, Elizabeth I McCann and Matthew Mitchell.

- by Terri Paddock