Award-winning playwright Phyllis Nagy has been commissioned by the Palace Theatre Watford to adapt The Talented Mr Ripley - a novel by crime writer Patricia Highsmith - as part of the theatre's 90th Anniversary Season. The play runs 2 to 24 October 1998.

Set on the Italian Riviera in the 1950s, The Talented Mr Ripley introduces one of fiction's most chilling characters - Tom Ripley - who appears in many of Highsmith's later books. Cool, clever and in control, Tom desires money and success and lets nothing and nobody stand in his way.

Phyllis Nagy's plays include Butterfly Kiss (Almeida), Weldon Rising, The Strip and Disappeared (Royal Court). For Disappeared, which played at the Haymarket Leicester and on regional tour before its stint at the Royal Court, Nagy won the 1992 Mobil International Playwriting Prize, the 1995 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, the Writers Guild of Great Britain Best Regional Play Award and the Eileen Anderson/Central Television Best Play Award.

Nagy's latest play, Never Land, premiered at the Royal Court in January 1998 and is scheduled for a West End run in 1999. Nagy is currently under commission to write plays for the Royal Court and Royal Shakespeare Company. She has also been commissioned to adapt two other Highsmith novels - Carol and Found in the Street - into feature films.

At the Palace Theatre, John Padden stars as Tom Ripley. Padden appeared in Nagy's The Strip and was recently seen in The Magistrate in its runs at Chichester and the West End's Savoy Theatre. Padden is joined by Joseph Millson (whose credits include The Real Inspector Hound at the Comedy Theatre and Gasping at the Palace Theatre Watford), Lou Gish (Marlene in the West End and on tour), Vincent Marzallo (Buddy at the Victoria Palace, Wings at RNT and Dial 'M' for Murder at the Vaudeville), Raph Taylor, David Ganley and Patricia Quinn.

The Talented Mr Ripley is directed by Giles Croft, artistic director of the Palace Theatre Watford.

The Talented Mr Ripley is also being made into a film starring Matt Damon, Gwynneth Paltrow, Jude Law and directed by Anthony Minghella. The novel, written in 1955, was awarded the Edgar Allen Poe Scroll by the Mystery Writers of America.