Cold Feet’s Helen Baxendale (pictured) will star opposite Christian Slater in the world premiere stage adaptation of the cult Hollywood exposé film Swimming with Sharks, which opens on 16 October 2007 (previews from 5 October) for a limited 15-week season at the West End’s Vaudeville Theatre (See News, 8 Aug 2007).

Baxendale plays sexy producer Dawn Lockyard to Slater’s ruthless senior colleague Buddy Ackerman, the part created by Kevin Spacey in George Huang’s 1994 film. Buddy is one of the most powerful men in the cut-throat world of Hollywood, the mastermind of a top studio’s high-grossing, ultra violent horror slate – and he’s the boss from hell. Guy, his eager and idealistic new assistant and would-be screenwriter, soon finds himself serving as Buddy’s personal slave. Hoping to be given his big break, Guy endures Buddy’s relentless abuse until he reaches breaking point, leading to a torturous showdown between mentor, protégé and lover, with devastating consequences.

Though she launched her acting career with seasons at the Glasgow Citizens Theatre, Baxendale is best known for her television roles in the likes of Cold Feet, Cardiac Arrest and the US sitcom Friends, in which she played Ross' English wife. Amongst her other screen credits are An Unsuitable Job for a Woman, The Cappuccino Years, Ordinary Decent Criminal and Dead by Monday. On stage, Baxendale’s most recent credits include The Woman Before at the Royal Court and After Miss Julie at the Donmar Warehouse.

The part of Buddy’s assistant Guy will be played by Matt Smith, whose credits include Fresh Kills, That Face, The History Boys and Chatroom/Citizenship on stage and Party Animals on TV. Also in the cast are Elizabeth Croft, Arthur Darvill, Mark Edel-Hunt, Jonathan Newth and Fanos Xenofos.

Swimming with Sharks is adapted by UK playwright and screenwriter Michael Lesslie. The premiere production is directed by Wilson Milam and designed by Dick Bird. It’s presented by Nick Frankfort and Tobias Round (formerly executive producer and general manager, respectively, of the Donmar Warehouse) for CMP, which commissioned the play, and Nica Burns and Max Weitzenhoffer for Nimax Theatres Ltd.

In other play casting news, full company details have now been announced for The Country Wife, the launch production in the Theatre Royal Haymarket Company’s inaugural season under the direction of Jonathan Kent (See News, 9 Jul 2007).

William Wycherley’s classic 1675 Restoration comedy revolves around notorious man-about-town Horner who schemes to seduce the women of London society en masse by spreading a rumour that he’s impotent. Meanwhile, the newly-married Pinchwife desperately attempts to keep his naïve country bride from the clutches of predatory London bachelors. When she and Horner meet, events spiral out of his control...

In addition to the previously announced Toby Stephens (as Horner), David Haig (Pinchwife), Fiona Glascott (Margery Pinchwife, the country wife of the title), Patricia Hodge (Lady Fidget) and Liz Crowther (Mrs Squeamish), the cast comprises Catherine Bailey (Lucy), Timothy Bateson (Boy), Tristan Beint (Dorilant), Janet Brown (Old Lady Squeamish), Nicolas Day (Sir Jasper Fidget), Elisabeth Dermot-Walsh (Ms Alithea), John Hopkins (Harcourt), David Shaw-Parker (Quack), Jo Stone-Fewings (Sparks) and Lucy Tregear (Dainty Fidget).

The Country Wife runs from 9 October 2007 (previews from 27 September) to 12 January 2008. It’s directed by Kent, former joint artistic director of the Almeida Theatre, and designed by Paul Brown, with lighting by Mark Henderson and sound by Paul Groothuis.

- by Terri Paddock