Following his current turn as a hapless politician in Richard Bean’s new farce In the Club at Hampstead Theatre, James Fleet will cross over to Islington to star in Thea Sharrock’s revival of Caryl Churchill’s politically-charged 1979 classic Cloud Nine, which runs from 31 October (previews from 25 October) to 8 December 2007 at the Almeida Theatre (See News, 6 Jul 2007).

Set in both colonial Africa and modern-day Britain, Churchill’s gender-swapping play examines relationships – between women and men, men and men, women and women. According to promotional material, it’s about “work, mothers, Africa, power, children, grandmothers, politics, money, Queen Victoria and sex”.

Fleet, who plays Clive/Cathy, is perhaps best known to audiences for his role as Hugo in The Vicar of Dibley. His other credits include Mary Stuart, Three Sisters, Art, The Late Middle Classes on stage, and Charlotte Gray, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Sense and Sensibility, Monarch of the Glen on screen.

He’s joined in Cloud Nine by Tobias Menzies (pictured), as Harry Bagley/Martin. Menzies appeared with Fleet in Three Sisters at the West End’s Playhouse Theatre. His other credits include The History Boys, Platonov, Hamlet, The Cherry Orchard on stage and, Rome, Persuasion, A Very Social Secretary, Longitude, Atonement, Casino Royale and Finding Neverland on screen.

Also in the cast are: Mark Letheren (Joshua/Gerry), Bo Poraj (Betty/Edward), Joanna Scanlan (Maud/Victoria), Sophie Stanton (Ellen/Mrs Saunders/Lin) and Nicola Walker (Edward/Betty). The production is designed by Peter McKintosh, with lighting by Peter Mumford and sound by Gregory Clarke.

In other casting news, Ed Hughes (Canterbury Tales) and Patrick Robinson (Festen, Guantanamo) will star in Headlong Theatre’s adaptation of Rough Crossings (See News, 29 Aug 2006), which opens at Birmingham Rep on 14 September 2007 before visiting London’s Lyric Hammersmith (25 September to 13 October) and continuing to Liverpool Playhouse (16 to 27 October) and West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds (6 to 24 November).

American novelist Caryl Phillips has adapted Simon Schama’s 2005 non-fiction bestseller, sub-titled Britain, the Slaves and the American Revolution, for the stage in a world premiere production marking the 200th anniversary of the end of slavery in British Empire. A plantation slave (Robinson) and a British naval officer (Hughes) embark on an epic journey in search of freedom.

Also in the Rough Crossings cast are: Peter Bankole, Miranda Colchester, Peter de Jersey, Ian Drysdale, Dave Fishley, Andy Frame, Rob Hastie, Dawn Hope, Mark Jax, Jessica Lloyd, Michael Matus, Wunmi Mosaku, Ben Okafor and Daniel Williams. The production is directed by Headlong artistic director Rupert Goold and designed by Laura Hopkins with lighting by Paul Pyant and music and sound by Adam Cork.

Ahead of Rough Crossings at the Lyric Hammersmith, the National Theatre of Scotland’s new version of The Bacchae, starring Alan Cumming as god of dance and wine Dionysus, runs from 5 to 22 September (See News, 18 Apr 2007). The production opened to strong reviews last weekend at the Edinburgh International Festival, and will also visit Glasgow’s Theatre Royal, Glasgow (28 August to 1 September) before concluding in London.

In Euripides ancient Greek classic, the women have tasted pleasure and have left their homes to revel with Dionysus. Disguising himself as a woman, Pentheus infiltrates the revellers and tries to repress their desires at any cost.

The cast also features Tony Curran (as Pentheus), Paola Dionisotti (Agave), Ewan Hooper (Cadmus) and Ralph Riach (Tiresias). The chorus is played by Michelle Asante, Lynette Clark, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Maria Mantack, Gloria Onitiri, Denise Orita, Ann-Marie Roberts, Jessika Williams, Emi Wokoma and Sandra Yaw.

NTS’s new version of The Bacchae is written by David Greig and directed by John Tiffany, who had an award-winning NTS hit at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe with Black Watch. It’s designed by Miriam Buether, with choreography by Steven Hoggett, music by Tim Sutton, lighting by Colin Grenfell and sound by Chris Shutt.

- by Terri Paddock