As previously tipped (See The Goss, 24 Jun 2005), Richard E Grant (pictured) will star in the first West End revival of Simon Gray’s Otherwise Engaged, which, following a brief regional tour, will open on 31 October 2005 (previews from 25 October) at London’s Criterion Theatre, where it’s initially booking until 28 January 2006.

Witty, urbane, sophisticated and selfish, publisher Simon Hench is a man of taste and discretion, who is accustomed to keeping himself at a graceful distance from the messy distractions of his family and friends. He has a problem though - well, several actually - only he just doesn't know it yet. Settling in for an evening with his new recording of Wagner's Parsifal, Simon is besieged by a deluge of unwelcome visitors, and his usually cool demeanour begins to buckle as life finally catches up with him.

Simon Gray’s play was first seen in the West End at the Queen’s Theatre in a 1975 production directed by Harold Pinter and starring Alan Bates, Nigel Hawthorne, Julian Glover and Ian Charleson. In the new production, directed by Simon Curtis (Dinner with Friends, Roots) and designed by Simon Higlett, Grant will be joined in the cast of Anthony Head (further casting still tbc).

Born in Swaziland and now based in Britain, Grant is best known for his many film credits, which include Gosford Park, The Age of Innocence, Jack and Sarah, Spice World, The Scarlet Pimpernel and, of course, Withnail and I. He makes his film directorial debut in August with Wah Wah, a semi-autobiographical tale about his African childhood. On stage earlier in his career, Grant appeared in, amongst other productions, The Importance of Being Earnest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Merry Wives of Windsor and Tramway.

Anthony Head has become best known internationally for his role in the American television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. His other recent screen credits include Spooks, The Family Business, Manchild and Silent Witness. He was last seen in the West End playing a pair of pirate villains, Captain Hook in Peter Pan and the Pirate King in The Pirates of Penzance, in the 2003/4 double bill at the Savoy.

Simon Gray’s other plays include Quartermaine’s Terms, Butley, Cell Mates, The Holy Terror, A Common Pursuit, Japes, The Late Middle Classes and, seen last year at the West End’s Comedy Theatre, The Old Masters.

Prior to its West End transfer, Otherwise Engaged will open first at Bath’s Theatre Royal (running from 19 to 24 September 2005) before visiting Oxford, Milton Keynes and Woking. The revival is produced by Mark Rubinstein, Sonia Friedman Productions, Lee Menzies and TEG Productions. Currently at the Criterion, Tall Stories’ children’s show, The Gruffalo, continues its limited five-week West End season until 21 August (See News, 1 Jul 2005).

- by Terri Paddock