Shakespeare's Globe artistic director Mark Rylance will star with Imelda Staunton in the British premiere of a new play by Art -author Yasmina Reza. Life x 3 will open at the National's Lyttelton Theatre on 7 December 2000 following previews from 1 December.

Henri (Rylance) and Sonia are putting their son to bed when a knock at the door throws them into disarray. Hubert and Ines (Staunton) have arrived for dinner, a day earlier than expected, and the evening soon degenerates into chaos.

Life x 3 reunites the French playwright with translator Christopher Hampton, director Matthew Warchus and designer Mark Thompson. The team were responsible for Reza's international hits, The Unexpected Man and Art, which this month celebrates its fourth birthday at the West End' s Wyndham's Theatre. Another Reza play, Theatre Royal Bath and Malvern Theatres): Conversations After a Burial, also translated by Hampton, is currently playing at the Almeida Theatre.

Rylance has been artistic director of the Globe since its opening. His performances there have included the title roles in Henry V and Hamlet as well as Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra. His other theatre work includes many roles for the RSC, Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing in the West End, and the alternating roles of two brothers in Sam Shephard's True West at the Donmar Warehouse.

Staunton returns to the National, where she last appeared as Miss Adelaide in Guys and Dolls. Her extensive stage work includes A Chorus of Disapproval, for which she won an Olivier Award for Best Supporting Actress (also at the National), Uncle Vanya (Vaudeville), Into the Woods (Phoenix), and Habeas Corpus (Donmar). Her many TV and film appearances include Up the Garden Path, The Singing Detective, Much Ado About Nothing, Peter's Friends and Sense and Sensibility.