British film actor Tom Conti (pictured) takes over from American TV star Judd Hirsch in the current cast of Art for four weeks only from 4 to 30 September 2001. Hirsch has been called back to the US due to television commitments. Conti, as 'Marc', will star in the three-hander alongside two other Americans - Richard Thomas and Joe Morton - who remain in their roles as Yvan and Serge.

Conti is not new to Art. Although he hasn't yet appeared in the West End production, now on its 19th cast, he had great success with Yasmina Reza's comedy in Australia. He was most recently seen in the West End in 1999 in John Dowie's Jesus My Boy. His other stage credits include Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell and Whose Life Is It Anyway? for which he won the Olivier, Tony and Variety Club awards for Best Actor. On screen, Conti has starred in films such as Shirley Valentine, Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence and Reuben, Reuben, for which he was Oscar-nominated.

Richard Thomas is familiar to television audiences as John Boy in TV's The Waltons, a part which he played from 1972 to 1977 and was Emmy-awarded for. He's also an accomplished classical actor with stage credits including Richard II, Richard III, A Midsummer Night's Dream and Measure for Measure. Joe Morton's film credits include Speed, Forever Young and Lone Star.

The London production of Art - translated by Christopher Hampton and directed by Matthew Warchus - has long attracted well-known actors for its short stints. The original cast starred Albert Finney, Tom Courtenay and Ken Stott. Subsequent casts have featured Henry Goodman, David Haig, Anton Lesser, Tom Mannion and Art Malik as well as comedians Frank Skinner and Jack Dee. In addition to the current imports, previous American casts have also brought the likes of Patrick Duffy, George Wendt and Stacy Keach to the West End.

Art has won both the Evening Standard and Olivier Awards for Best Comedy, while the New York production won the Tony and New York Critics Circle Awards for Best Play.

- by Terri Paddock