Casting details have been announced for the two Royal Shakespeare Company productions opening at the Barbican this Autumn. New versions of Alice In Wonderland and The Merchant of Venice will both then play beyond London, with Ian Bartholomew starring as Merchant Shylock.

Katherine Heath will perform the part of Alice, in her first professional role since leaving drama school. Other members of the cast include Rosie Crain (Lorina/Lory), John Conroy (Caterpillar/White King), Martyn Ellis (Humpty Dumpty), Marilyn Cutts (Dormouse/White Queen) and Daniel Flynn as Dodgson. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) was inspired to write the Alice stories after meeting the Dean of Christ Church's daughter Alice Liddell. The actual relationship between Dodgson and the Liddell family has been the source of endless speculation, ever since the author's diaries were destroyed after his death.

The new dramatisation of Carroll's classic stories comes courtesy of Adrian Mitchell, award-winning poet, playwright and novelist. Mitchell is resident writer at Unicorn Children's Theatre and his previous RSC work includes adapting The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe (RST, Sadler's Wells) and Marat/Sade for Peter Brook's 1964 production.

Rachel Kavanaugh makes her RSC main-stage directorial debut with Alice, and began her career at the Orange Tree Theatre. She later became an RSC Assistant Director and directed Love's Labours Lost at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre in 2001. The Barbican run opens on 26 October 2001, before moving to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre on 30 November 2001.

Ian Bartholomew recently appeared in the RSC's celebrated world tour of Carlo Goldoni's A Servant to Two Masters. He was Olivier-nominated in 1993 for the musical Radio Times, and TV appearances include Rumpole of the Bailey and The Professionals. Hermione Gulliford returns to the RSC to play Portia, having previously appeared with the company in A Midsummer Night's Dream and Antony and Cleopatra in 1999.

Other cast members include Paul Hickey (Passing Places at Edinburgh Traverse), and Ian Gelder whose career includes Good (Donmar Warehouse), Fireface (Jerwood Upstairs) and Mouth to Mouth (Albery). The Merchant of Venice opens at the Barbican Pit on 23 October 2001 before moving to Stratford's Swan on 28 November 2001. Loveday Ingram makes her RSC directorial debut, having recently been made Associate Director of Chichester Festival Theatre.

- by Gareth Thompson