Harriet Walter (pictured), Peter Bowles and Toby Stephens have been confirmed alongside Dame Judi Dench for the cast of The Royal Family. The production, directed by Sir Peter Hall, previews at the Theatre Royal Haymarket from 24 October 2001 before opening on 1 November.

Other names for the company are still awaiting confirmation, with speculation persisting around both RSC veteran Philip Voss and Celia Imrie. The play dates back to the 1920s and resulted from a collaboration between George S Kaufman and Edna Ferber. Based on the Barrymore family, America's legendary 'first family' of theatre, its send up of the acting profession has drawn comparison with Michael Frayn's Noises Off success. An Oscar-nominated film version, entitled The Royal Family of Broadway, was made in 1930 and starred Fredric March.

Harriet Walter, created a CBE in 2000, has appeared on stage and screen for over 20 years. Her extensive stage credits include Macbeth and A Midsummer Night's Dream for the RSC, Ivanov (Almeida), Sweet Panic (Hampstead) and The Merchant of Venice (Manchester Royal Exchange). Her film career has taken in Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility and Keep the Aspidistra Flying, alongside TV series such as A Dance To the Music of Time. Walter has also written a book, Other People's Shoes, and is an Associate Artist of the RSC.

After a lengthy career in television, Peter Bowles has made something of a major return to the stage in recent years. After finding TV sitcom stardom via the series To the Manor Born and Only When I Laugh, he has played lead roles in numerous productions including The Entertainers (Old Vic) and The Beau (Haymarket). He was born in London in 1936 and an early pantomime outing (Hooray for Daisy) saw him forming a double act with the late Leonard Rossiter.

Toby Stephens' theatre work has incorporated Britannicus and Phedre in repertory at the Albery Theatre, Coriolanus for the RSC and A Streetcar Named Desire (Haymarket).The latter was also directed by Sir Peter Hall, who is joined in The Royal Family production team by Anthony Ward (design) and Jon Boswell (lighting).

- by Gareth Thompson