As expected, television comedy trio The League of Gentlemen (pictured) will form the next cast of Yasmina Reza's Art (See News, 10 Sep 02). Less expected is the news, announced today, that this 27th company will be the last for the long-running West End comedy. The League (aka Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith) will take over at the Whitehall Theatre from 28 October 2002 (previews from 14 October) and will continue to 4 January 2003, when the production will close after more than six years in London.

Prior to the League's debut, and contrary to previous announcements, the parts of the feuding friends who fall out over a modern painting will be played by Colin Haigh, Gareth Harris and Michael Gyngell who can be seen from this week until 12 October 2002.

The League of Gentlemen made their West End debuts last year with a limited Theatre Royal Drury Lane season of their sketch show, which was nominated for an Olivier Award for Best Entertainment. The League wouldn't be the first comedians to appear in Art (both Jack Dee and Frank Skinner have already taken turns in the show), but they would be the first ready-made threesome to take over in the long-running hit.

Originally running for nearly five years at Wyndham's Theatre, where it opened in October 1996, the London production of Art - translated by Christopher Hampton and directed by Matthew Warchus - has attracted well-known actors for its short stints since its original cast was Albert Finney, Tom Courtenay and Ken Stott.

Subsequent companies have featured Henry Goodman, David Haig, Anton Lesser, Tom Mannion and Art Malik, Nigel Havers, Richard Griffiths, Simon Shepher and Philip Franks as well as comedians Frank Skinner and Jack Dee. Imported American casts have also brought the likes of Patrick Duffy, Richard Thomas, Judd Hirsch, George Wendt and Stacy Keach to the West End.

Amongst Art's many accolades are the Evening Standard and Olivier Awards for Best Comedy as well as, for the New York production, the Tony and New York Critics Awards for Best Play. The West End production transferred to the Whitehall Theatre in October 2001.

- by Terri Paddock