Paul Rhys (pictured) will return to the National Theatre this autumn to take the title role in Chekhov's Ivanov, in a new version by David Harrower. The production, directed by Katie Mitchell will open at the NT Cottesloe on 10 September 2002 (previews from 2 September).

Set in a country suffering from political, ideological and spiritual stagnation, Chekhov's first full-length play anticipates the explosive revolutionary atmosphere of Russia at the turn of the century. Ivanov, a driving force in local government and a visionary landowner, feels burnt out at 35. Once the pioneer of scientific farming methods and of education for the peasants, he now drowns in bureaucracy and debt, his large estate neglected. While his wife is dying, Sasha, a young, educated woman, falls in love with Ivanov and determines to save him.

Rhys was last seen at the National starring as the young AE Housman in the premiere of Tom Stoppard's The Invention of Love, later transferring to the West End. His other stage credits include King Lear with Ian Holm (National), Long Day's Journey into Night (Young Vic), Design for Living (Donmar Warehouse) and the title role in an RSC co-production of Hamlet, for which he won the Barclays TMA Best Actor award. On film and television, Rhys' many credits include Food of Love, From Hell, Love Lies Bleeding, Chaplin, Vincent and Theo, The Cazalet Chronicles, I Saw You, Anna Karenina, A Dance to the Music of Time and The Healer (BAFTA Award for Best Actor).

In Ivanov, Rhys will be joined by a distinguished cast that also includes Juliet Aubrey, Robert Bowman, Sarah Flind, Gillian Hanna, Stuart McQuarrie, Bridget Turner, Indira Varma, Philip Voss and Peter Wight.

David Harrower's plays include Knives in Hens, Kill the Old Torture Their Young and Presence; his adaptations include Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author and Buchner's Woycek. Amongst Katie Mitchell's previous acclaimed productions are The Oresteia (National), The Phoenician Women (RSC), The Maids and Uncle Vanya (Young Vic), and Face to the Wall and Nightsongs (Royal Court).

Ivanov will be designed by Vicki Mortimer, with lighting by Paule Constable. The movement director will be Struan Leslie and the music director will be Melissa Holding.

- by Terri Paddock