Two-time Olivier Award winner Conleth Hill and Cold Feet’s James Nesbitt will star in the new West End production of Belfast playwright Owen McCafferty’s Shoot the Crow, which opens on 11 October 2005 (previews from 28 September) at Trafalgar Studios, where it’s initially booking until 10 December (See News, 9 Aug 2005).

Set on an Irish building site, Shoot the Crow is billed as “a sad and hilarious play” about four tilers who, as they come to the end of the job they've been working on, plan to nick a leftover pallet of tiles.

In addition to Cold Feet, Nesbitt (pictured), who plays Socrates, is well known for his other television and film credits, including Murphy’s Law, The Miller’s Tale, Millions, Bloody Sunday, Waking Ned and Welcome to Sarajevo. He also features in Woody Allen’s upcoming Match Point, released next year. Amongst his previous stage credits are Darwin’s Flood at the Bush and Translations at Birmingham Rep.

Fellow Irishman Hill, who plays Petesy, comes to the play direct from Mel Brooks’ The Producers, for which he won a Best Supporting Performance in a Musical for his take on flamboyant cross-dressing director Roger DeBris. In 2001, Hill won an Olivier, as well as a Theatregoers’ Choice Award, for Best Actor for Stones in His Pockets. He previously appeared in Shoot the Crow in its award-winning 2003 British premiere at Manchester’s Royal Exchange. His other British stage credits have included Democracy (at the National and in the West End), A Christmas Carol, The Government Inspector, The Playboy of the Western World, The Suicide and Shining Souls.

Nesbitt and Hill are joined in the new Shoot the Crow cast by Jim Norton as Ding Ding. Norton’s many credits, at the National, Royal Court, in the West End and on Broadway, have included The Weir, Port Authority, Dublin Carol, Come On Over, Hamlet and Playboy of the Western World. Further casting has yet to be announced.

Shoot the Crow is directed by Robert Delamere (Earthly Paradise, Accidental Death of an Anarchist, designed by Simon Higlett and presented by Sonia Friedman Productions.

Owen McCafferty’s previous plays in London include Days of Wine and Roses, Closing Time and Scenes from the Big Picture. The last, an epic piece for a 21-strong ensemble premiere at the National in 2003, won McCafferty a hat trick of the UK’s top playwriting awards – the John Whiting, Evening Standard Charles Wintour and Meyer-Whitworth Awards – marking the first time that any dramatist won all three in a single year.

In other upcoming West End plays, Francesca Annis is now confirmed to star opposite Joseph Fiennes in Peter Gill’s revival of John Osborne and Anthony Creighton’s 1957 play Epitaph for George Dillon (See News, 8 Jul 2005), which opens for a limited season at the Comedy Theatre on 27 September 2005 (previews from 20 September). Annis has just been seen in Rebecca Lenkiewicz’s Shoreditch Madonna at Soho Theatre. Her recent West End credits include Pirandello’s Henry IV and The Vortex at the Donmar and Ghosts.

Written before Osborne’s groundbreaking Look Back in Anger in 1956, Epitaph for George Dillon was not staged until a year later in Oxford. It transferred to London’s Royal Court, where Look Back in Anger premiered, and then on to the West End (also at the Comedy) with Robert Stephens in the title role. It was later staged in New York, where it was nominated for three Tony Awards, including Best Play.

In a lower middle class household in south London, the Elliots lead an unhappy suburban life. But this is disrupted when Kate bring home a surrogate for her son killed in the war. This aspiring actor-penniless writer is the charismatic bohemian George Dillon, played by Fiennes. The cast will also feature Geoffrey Hutchings, Zoe Tapper and Dorothy Atkinson.

- by Terri Paddock