British film actor Ray Winstone will star in director Sam Mendes' first stage production since his Oscar success with the film American Beauty. Winstone will play a member of a World War I tank crew in the world premiere of Nick Whitby's To the Green Fields Beyond, which opens at the Donmar Warehouse on 25 September (previews from 14 September) and continues to 25 November 2000.

Mendes had planned - and already begun casting for - a production of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night for the autumn run, but was so taken with Whitby's script that he changed the theatre's schedule at short notice. Speaking at the time, he said: 'Shakespeare can wait. You have to take advantage of a good and exciting new play like this. It is not every day they land on your desk.'

The drama takes place in the autumn of 1918 and examines the relationships between the men in the multi-racial crew as they battle against the odds. During the war, many Army generals believed that this new weapon of war could break the deadlock of the trenches, but most of the tanks seized up as a result of mechanical breakdowns.

To the Green Fields Beyond will be Winstone's first stage performance since 1997 when he appeared at the Royal Court in Caryl Churchill's This Is a Chair. As a young man, Winstone was a successful amateur boxer until he found early acting success in films such as Scum and Quadrophenia. His more recent films include Nil By Mouth, The War Zone and Fanny and Elvis as well as the BBC series Births, Deaths and Marriages. His stage credits include Patrick Marber's debut play Dealer's Choice at the National and Joe Penhall's Some Voices and Pale Horse at the Royal Court.

Additional casting has not yet been announced.