Award-winning British screen actress Brenda Blethyn rounds out a week of major openings tonight (10 October 2002) when she takes to the West End stage, for the first time in five years, to play the title role in Peter Hall's centennial production of George Bernard Shaw's Mrs Warren's Profession. It's the third in a row this week of high-profile leading lady-led openings - following Glenn Close in A Streetcar Named Desire on Tuesday and Elaine Stritch at Liberty last night - and precedes next week's much-anticipated opening of Dames Maggie Smith and Judi Dench in David Hare's The Breath of Life.

At the Strand Theatre, Mrs Warren's Profession continues its limited season until 18 January 2003 (previews from 2 October). Written in 1894 but not performed until 1902, the piece is considered one of Shaw's most provocative plays. In it, serious-minded Cambridge graduate Vivie Warren discovers how her mother turned to prostitution to fund their family's comfortable lifestyle. Mrs Warren's continued involvement in the world's oldest profession sets the pair at odds.

A regular at the National and the RSC in the 1970s, Blethyn branched out largely into television in the 1980s while, over the past decade, she has become best known for her big screen roles in films such as A River Runs Through It, Night Train, Little Voice, Saving Grace and, most notably, Mike Leigh's Secrets and Lies, for which she won a Golden Globe Award, a BAFTA and an Oscar nomination.

Blethyn's renowned stage appearances have included the premiere of Michael Frayn's Benefactors (Vaudeville), Steaming (Stratford East) and, most recently, Sam Mendes' 1997 Donmar Warehouse production of Alan Bennett's Habeas Corpus. In 1990, she made her Broadway debut in Alan Ayckbourn's Absent Friends, winning a Theater World Award for Outstanding New Talent.

She is joined in the cast of Mrs Warren's Profession by Peter Blythe, Richard Johnson, Rebecca Hall, Laurence Fox and James Saxon. The production is designed by John Gunter, with lighting by Peter Mumford. It is co-produced by Theatre Royal Haymarket and Stanhope Productions.

- by Terri Paddock