Paul Rhys has been forced to withdraw from the National Theatre's upcoming production of Chekhov's Ivanov. He has been replaced by Owen Teale (pictured) and the opening of Katie Mitchell's production at the NT Cottesloe has been delayed by a week to 16 September 2002, following previews from 7 September (as opposed to the original opening of 10 September, previews from 2 September).

Playing the title role in the Chekhov classic was meant to mark Rhys' return to the National for the first time since starring as the young AE Housman in the multi award-winning premiere of Tom Stoppard's The Invention of Love, which later transferred to the West End and Broadway. A personal bereavement has prevented him from appearing in the new production.

Teale's many theatre credits include Katie Mitchell's production of The Country at the Royal Court; Julius Caesar, King Lear and Love's Labour's Lost for the RSC; and A Doll's House in the West End and on Broadway, where he won a Tony Award. He has previously appeared at the National in Berenice.

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.

Teale is joined in Ivanov 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.

Ivanov is newly translated by David Harrower for this production, which is 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