In celebration of her 75th birthday, Joan Rivers (pictured), the American comedienne renowned for her quips and devotion to plastic surgery, will make her London acting debut in the self-penned autobiographical play Joan Rivers: A Work in Progress by a Life in Progress. The premiere production will relaunch The Venue off Leicester Square, which is being refurbished and renamed the Leicester Square Theatre.

Following a preview at the Edinburgh Fringe, Rivers’ four-hander will initially run at the 420-seat London venue from 29 August to 18 September 2008, then returning from 2 December 2008 to 29 January 2009 prior to a Broadway transfer. Numerically, the production takes its inspiration from Rivers’ milestone birthday (which is on 8 June): there will be a total of 75 performances and, while normal tickets range from £25 to £49.50, designated “Diamond Tickets” for each performance will be sold at £75. These include a seat in VIP roped-off front rows, a Joan Rivers goodie bag and a post-show meeting with the lady herself.

Part-confession, part-performance comedy drama, Joan Rivers: A Work in Progress by a Life in Progress presents the public Rivers from TV appearances and stand-up shows, as well as the private one. In her dressing room backstage at the Oscars ceremony, Rivers is preparing for one of her legendary annual TV catwalk commentaries on the fashion hits and disasters at Hollywood\'s biggest night of the year. But all is not well... her dressing room is B, not A; her complimentary cheese is puny, not plentiful; and her producer is the bigwig\'s nephew, not the bigwig! The tension prompts an introspective look at aging, going through life\'s ups and downs (including her famous break-up with Johnny Carson and her husband’s suicide) and being a woman in Hollywood.

A Work in Progress by a Life in Progress is directed by the Right Size’s Sean Foley, who directed Pinter’s People in the West End last year. Rivers is joined in the cast by Emily Kosloski, Carrie Paff and Mark Philips. The play had its world premiere in Los Angeles this past February. At the Edinburgh Fringe, it will run at the Underbelly Cow Barn from 7 to 25 August 2008.

During an eclectic career spanning five decades, the Brooklyn-born Rivers has had success as a comedienne, actress, author, TV and chat show host, director, lecturer, jewellery designer and businesswoman. The first sole permanent guest hostess of The Tonight Show, she went on to become the first woman host of a primetime evening chat show for Fox TV and later won an Emmy for her work on her daytime show, which ran for seven years. Her signature question, “Can we talk?” is now a Federal trademark. Rivers’ stage credits include her co-authored one-woman show Broke and Alone and, on Broadway, Fun City, Broadway Bound and Sally Marr and Her Escorts, for which she was nominated for the Best Actress Tony Award.

- by Terri Paddock