Hock and Soda Water, a new play by Rumpole creator John Mortimer, will receive its world premiere in Chichester, West Sussex, next month. The piece, specially commissioned by Chichester Festival Theatre, will open at CFT's Minerva Theatre on 27 November 2001, following previews from 14 November, and will continue to 8 December.

Described as a "quintessentially English comedy about the recipe for happiness through the three ages of man", Hock and Soda Water follows the wonderfully named Henry Troutbeck Pottinger who, now in the autumn of his years, is transported back to the key episodes of his life. On his time travels, he speaks with his younger self, as both man and boy, and offers warnings of a life to come and advice on how he might live it without the small self-delusions and regrets that leave him ultimately unfulfilled.

The elder Henry will be played by Richard Johnson while his young man counterpart will be Alan Cox. A founder member of the RSC, a long-time NT player and a contract performer for MGM from 1969 to 1965, Johnson was most recently seen on the London stage in the Donmar Warehouse's Tales from Hollywood, while on film he has of late been seen in Milk and Tombraider. Cox has recently appeared in Chichester productions of On the Razzle and The Importance of Being Earnest.

Boy Henry will be played by Chichester Festival Youth Theatre member Sam Harding. The three Henrys are joined in the cast by Dinah Stabb, Osmund Bullock, Peter Aubrey, Josephine Butler, Gemma Page, Natasha Green and Ewan Watson.

John Mortimer is a playwright, novelist and QC who spent many years as a practising barrister. He is best known for his Rumpole of the Bailey short story collections, which became a long-running TV series. The final Rumpole collection - Rumpole Rests His Case - will be published in November 2001. Mortimer has also written numerous novels, biographies, TV adaptations and screenplays, while his stage plays include The Dock Brief, The Wrong Side of the Park and A Voyage Round My Father.

Hock and Soda Water is directed by Christopher Morahan, choreographed by Terry John Bates and designed by Deirdre Clancy, with lighting by Wayne Dowdeswell, sound by Tom Lishman and musical advisement by Gerry Berkley.

- by Terri Paddock