The Open Air Theatre has announced the casting for its forthcoming summer repertory season, running from 30 May to 10 September 2005 (See News, 17 Jan, 2005). Highlights include: Desmond Barrit (pictured) as Sir Toby Belch, Simon Day as Feste and Harriet Thorpe as Maria in The Twelfth Night, with Gary Wilmot as Dick Deadeye in HMS Pinafore and Hal Fowler, returning to Regent’s Park after playing Mike Connors in 2003’s High Society, as Caius Lucius in Cymbeline.

Barrit’s recent theatre outings have included Stuff Happens and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum at the National and Accidental Death of an Anarchist at the Donmar. In addition to Belch, he’ll play Sir Joseph in HMS Pinafore, where Fowler also takes his second season role as Captain Corcoran. The men are joined by Lesley Nicol (East is East on stage and screen, Mammia Mia!) as Buttercup.

Day is also a familiar face from the National, having taken roles in Anything Goes (also for the West End transfer to the Theatre Royal Drury Lane), Love’s Labour’s Lost and The Coast of Utopia trilogy. Besides Feste, he will play Iachimo in Cymbeline where Harriet Thorpe joins him to play the Queen. Thorpe’s numerous stage credits including last year’s musical version of Brighton Rock at the Almeida, All My Sons and Prayer for Owen Meaney at the NT. On television, her many appearances include Absolutely Fabulous and The Brittas Empire.

Gary Wilmot, a West End musical theatre regular, recently played Caractacus Potts in the West End production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. His many other musical theatre credits include Me and My Girl, in the West End and later on tour, Carmen Jones, Copacabana, Oliver! and The Goodbye Girl and the Open Air’s production of The Pirates of Penzance. He’ll be joined in the new Gilbert and Sullivan production by Scarlet Strallen (as Josephine), who played Truly Scrumptious in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Also featured this summer are: Martin Jarvis ( Passion Play at the Donmar, The Doctor’s Dilemma at the Almeida) as Malvolio in Twelfth Night, Daniel Flynn (last year’s King Arthur in Camelot) as Orsino in Twelfth Night and Posthumus in Cymbeline, and Emma Pallant (recently seen in the RSC’s Spanish Golden Age season) as Imogen in Cymbeline.

The rest of the company across the four productions are: Mariah Gayle, James Loye, Dominic Marsh, Simon Thomas, Terence Wilton, Rupert Young, Tobias Beer, Vivian Care, Martin Chamberlain, Dominic Colchester, Tricia Crowe, Nicola Filshie, Natasha Lewis, James Millard, Alistair Parker, Sirine Saba, Giles Taylor, Simon Thomas, Jamie Beamish, Andy Brady, Julian Curry, Sarah Easton, Andrew Hutchings, Simon McCoy, Leo Conville and Neil Ditt.

Meanwhile, at Soho Theatre, Francesca Annis will lead the cast of Shoreditch Madonna, the new play by the award-winning Night Season author Rebecca Lenkiewicz, which runs from 6 July to 6 August 2005 (See News, 19 Apr 2005). Annis’ recent credits include Pirandello’s Henry IV and The Vortex at the Donmar and Ghosts in the West End.

In Shoreditch Madonna, we meet five dispirited characters whose lives collide in a modern tale of love and loss set in London’s East End. It’s directed by Sean Mathias, whose recent West End productions have included Aladdin and Dance of Death, both starring Ian McKellen. Also confirmed for the cast are: Adam Croasdale, Daniel Rabin and Alexandra Moen.

- by Hannah Kennedy and Terri Paddock