Dame Diana Rigg (pictured) and, as previously tipped (See The Goss, 18 Jun 2007) Lesley Manville will star in the world premiere stage adaptation of Pedro Almodóvar’s Oscar-winning 1999 film All About My Mother, which opens at the Old Vic on 4 September 2007 (previews from 25 August) for a limited season to 24 November.

Following the tragic death of her beloved teenage son Esteban, Manuela (Manville) goes to Barcelona in search of the father he never knew. But before she can exorcise her guilt, she gets caught up in the lives of three women: Agrado, a long-lost transvestite friend, Sister Rosa, a young nun in search of love, and Huma Rojo (Rigg), the famous actress her son so admired. Just as Manuela’s life begins to have meaning again, her son’s father returns and her journey of discovery and forgiveness comes full circle.

The premiere production marks the first major Pedro Almodóvar stage adaptation in 20 years and the first time ever that the Spanish filmmaker has consented to his work being produced in English. Almodóvar, who has been closely involved with the project, commented today on Diana Rigg’s casting: “I have been a fan of Diana’s for all these years, and I am thrilled that she is playing Huma.”

Rigg returns to the Old Vic where, in the early 1970s, she was part of Laurence Olivier’s National Theatre company, appearing in plays including The Misanthrope, Macbeth and Jumpers. Her more recent stage credits include Medea (Evening Standard and Tony Awards for Best Actress), Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Best Actress, Evening Standard), Mother Courage, Follies, Humble Boy, Suddenly Last Summer (Best Actress, Whatsonstage.com Awards) and, last year in the West End, Honour.

Lesley Manville – best known to film fans for her numerous Mike Leigh credits such as High Hopes, Secrets and Lies, Topsy-Turvy and Vera Drake - has been seen on stage in recent years in Pillars of the Community, The Alchemist, His Dark Materials and Some Girls.

Old Vic artistic director Kevin Spacey said today that he was “thrilled” about the casting: “I’ve always been a huge admirer of Lesley Manville’s work and her remarkable ability to access truth and humanity in the roles she plays. Her extensive experience of working on new writing with Mike Leigh, at the Royal Court and elsewhere, makes her a wonderful asset to this production. And I couldn’t be more pleased that Diana Rigg, one of the UK’s best-loved actresses, will be playing the role of Huma. Diana’s played an extraordinary range of roles in a distinguished career, and I can’t wait to see her on the Old Vic stage.”

Rigg and Manville are joined in the cast by Colin Morgan (currently starring in the Young Vic’s Vernon God Little) as Esteban, Joanne Froggatt (TV’s Coronation Street, See No Evil) as Sister Rosa and Charlotte Randle (Rabbit, Don Carlos, Lobby Hero) as Nina. The new play is adapted by Samuel Adamson, directed by Tom Cairns and designed by Hildegard Bechtler, with lighting by Bruno Poet and sound by Christopher Shutt. It features the film score by long-time Almodóvar collaborator Alberto Iglesias supplemented with new stage music by Ben and Max Ringham.

The project to adapt All About My Mother for the stage began in 2002 when Australian-born producer Daniel Sparrow approached Almodóvar’s film company El Deseo with the idea. The Old Vic and Sam Mendes’ company Neal Street Productions came on board as co-producers two years ago.

- by Terri Paddock