French playwright Gerald Sibleyras, who won this year’s Olivier for Best New Comedy for his English-language debut Heroes (See News, 26 Feb 2006), will make a two-pronged attack on the UK over the coming months.

As Heroes launches a post-West End tour, comedian Mel Smith (pictured) has adapted and, making a rare stage appearance, will star in the English-language premiere of Sibleyras’ new play An Hour and a Half Late (“Une Heure et Demie de Retard”), which will tour ahead of a possible transfer.

A two-hander, An Hour and a Half Late paints a recognisable portrait of a couple whose five minutes of candid conversation, just as they are about to go out to a dinner party, launches their lives into crises and anarchy. Will normality be resumed before the starter is ruined?

A writer, performer and director, Smith, with his comedy partner Griff Rhys-Jones, created and starred in the long-running TV sketch show Alas Smith and Jones (a pun on the American TV series Alias Smith and Jones). The pair also founded Talkback Productions, whose programmes since 1981 have included Smack the Pony, Da Ali G Show and I'm Alan Partridge. Smith has also appeared in Not the Nine O’Clock News and directed the feature films The Tall Guy and Bean.

In An Hour and a Half Late, Smith will co-star with Belinda Lang. Currently appearing with Judi Dench in the West End production of Hay Fever, Lang’s many credits include What the Butler Saw, Things We Do for Love, The Secret Rapture, Present Laughter and Life x 3 on stage and 2Point4 Children on television.

An Hour and a Half Late is directed by Tamara Harvey and designed by Christopher Woods. Following Bath, it continues on tour until 4 November 2006 to Bromley, Brighton, Richmond, Guildford, Edinburgh and Windsor. The production is presented by Theatre Royal Bath Productions with David Pugh and Dafydd Rogers, who produced Heroes in the West End.

The three-month UK tour of Heroes opens on 31 August 2006 at Bromley’s Churchill Theatre before visiting Richmond, Cambridge, Bath, Canterbury, Brighton, Woking, Malvern, Aberdeen, Norwich, Edinburgh, Milton Keynes and Glasgow, where it concludes on 2 December.

Set in 1959, the play takes place in a veterans’ hospital where three men are planning their escape. The tour will star Art Malik, Christopher Timothy and Michael Jayston as Philippe, Gustave and Henri, the parts played last year in the West End by, respectively, Ken Stott, John Hurt and Richard Griffiths.

Heroes - which was called Le Vent de Peupliers (The Wind in the Poplars) in France, where it was a long-running hit - received its English-language premiere, in a translation by Tom Stoppard, on 18 October 2005 (previews from 7 October) at the West End’s Wyndham’s Theatre, where it has a limited sell-out season until 14 January 2006 (See News, 26 May 2005).

As in the West End, the tour is directed by Gate artistic director Thea Sharrock and designed by Robert Jones, with lighting by Howard Harrison, sound by Simon Baker and music by Steve Parry. It’s presented on tour by Greg Ripley-Duggan.

- by Terri Paddock