Rickman and Duncan have also teamed up before, in the Royal Shakespeare Company's version of Les Liaisons Dangereuses, for which Duncan won an Olivier. Rickman was Tony-nominated when the play transferred to Broadway in 1986. Juliet Stevenson co-starred in the production, which was directed by Howard Davies who will also be producing Private Lives with Duncan Weldon.
In Private Lives, Rickman and Duncan play estranged divorcees Elyot and Amanda. However, when the couple find themselves in neighbouring honeymoon apartments in the south of France, their love is rekindled.
Private Lives was first performed in 1929 with Noel Coward as Elyot, Gertrude Lawrence as Amanda and the young Laurence Olivier. The story's portrayal of the reunited couple abandoning their new spouses was considered daring in its day, but enjoyed major success in London and New York. The last major London outing for the comedy was at the National two years ago with Juliet Stevenson and Anton Lesser playing the leads.
Duncan, a respected stage actress, recently starred in Kevin Elyot's Mouth to Mouth in the West End. She appeared in the National's 1997 production of Harold Pinter's The Homecoming and, last year, performed in the Almeida's production of Celebration. On television, she has featured in Stephen Poliakoff's Shooting the Past and Dirty Tricks with Martin Clunes.
Rickman attended RADA in the 1970s, after originally working as a graphic artist, and has performed extensively with repertory and experimental theatre groups. His last London stage appearance was opposite Helen Mirren in Trevor Nunn's 1998 production of Antony and Cleopatra at the National. Other notable stage works include As You Like It (RSC), The Grass Widow (Royal Court) and Hamlet (Riverside Studios). Rickman's numerous film credits contain Truly Madly Deeply, Close My Eyes, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and the forthcoming Harry Potter movie.
Director Davies was previously an associate director for the National and the RSC. His other UK RSC productions include Macbeth, The Time of Your Life and The Iceman Cometh which transferred to New York. Directing works for the National have included All My Sons, which also played in the West End, The Crucible and Hedda Gabler.
-by Gareth Thompson