Stephanie Cole will star in the stage adaptation of Rosamunde Pilcher's best-selling novel, The Shell Seekers. The touring production opens at Northampton's Royal Theatre on 1 September 2003 before continuing, until 29 November 2003, to more than ten further venues.

Set in London and Cornwall between World War II and the present, The Shell Seekers is the story of Penelope Keeling, her family and of the passions and heartbreak that have held them together for three generations. The title refers to a painting, and ancestral legacy, that threatens to tear the Keeling family apart.

Published in 1987, Rosamunde Pilcher's novel has so far sold more than 3.5 million copies and was recently voted in the top 100 of the UK's favourite books. The Scottish romance author's other best-selling novels include Coming Home and September. The Shell Seekers has been adapted for the stage by husband and wife team Terence Brady and Charlotte Bingham.

Stephanie Cole (pictured) is best known to television viewers for the likes of Tenko, Waiting for God, Talking Heads, A Bit of A Do, Soldiering On and Keeping Mum. She's also a stage veteran whose many West End credits include Rose, Noises Off, Steel Magnolias, The Relapse, A Passionate Woman andQuartet and, more recently on tour, Peter Nichols' So Long Life.

Cole is joined in The Shell Seekers cast by Peter Birrel, Paul Chapman, Jaqueline Clark, Karen Drury, Katherine Heath, Nicholas Osmond, Veronica Roberts, Ian Shaw and Martin Wimbash. The production is directed by David Taylor, designed by Simon Higlett and produced by Kenneth Wax and Nick Brooke.

Following Northampton, the tour continues to Plymouth, Guildford, Nottingham, Darlington, Norwich, Poole, Richmond, Cheltenham, Eastbourne and Ipswich, with further dates to be announced.

Also launching its regional tour next week is Two Sisters and a Piano, written by Cuban-American Nilo Cruz who this year became the first Latino playwright to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama (for Anna in the Tropics). The production - which marks the author's European debut - opens on 4 September 2003 at Glasgow's Tron Theatre, who are co-producing with Out of the Box, before continuing to ten further venues in the UK and Ireland, culminating in a London season from 16 to 25 September 2003 at Riverside Studios as part of a wider Cubafest! event.

Written in 1998, Two Sisters and a Piano is set in 1991 in Havana, where Maria Celia and Sofia are under house arrest for the publication of a pamphlet on perestroika. The production is directed by award-winning actress Paola Dionisotti (Further Than the Furthest Thing), who makes her directorial debut, and designed by Nick Barnes.

Following Glasgow, the production visits Fife, Poole, Bath, the Dublin Fringe Festival, Downpatrick, Reading, Salisbury, Goring by Sea, Bristol and Harrow prior to its London transfer.

- by Terri Paddock