David Calder (pictured), Will Keen and Indira Varma have been confirmed for the five-strong cast of Five Gold Rings, appearing alongside the already-announced Damian Lewis and Helen McCrory (See News, 3 Oct 2003). The new play, written by Joanna Laurens and directed by Almeida artistic director Michael Attenborough, will receive its world premiere on 18 December 2003 (previews from 11 December), continuing to 17 January 2004.

In Five Gold Rings, Henry's two sons and their wives come home for Christmas. But the conflicting needs and attitudes of the family make for an explosive Yule. Laurens' first play The Three Birds was staged at the Gate Theatre in 2000 and won both Critics' Circle and Time Out awards.

Calder, who plays patriarch Henry, has previously been seen in Conversations After a Burial at the Almeida, and elsewhere in The Drawer Boy (Abbey Theatre, Dublin) and Little Foxes (Donmar Warehouse) as well as, for the RSC, The Tempest, The Merchant of Venice and The Plantagenets.

Keen has just completed a title run in Pericles at the Lyric Hammersmith, while his other recent credits include The Coast of Utopia and The Duchess of Malfi at the National. Varma has previously been seen at the Almeida in Harold Pinter’s Celebration. Her other recent stage credits include The Vortex, Privates on Parade (Donmar) and Ivanov (National).

This week at the Almeida, Neil LaBute's post-9/11 drama The Mercy Seat receives its British premiere, starring Sinead Cusack and John Hannah as an adulterous New York couple who consider disappearing as the dust settles on 12 September 2001 (See News, 5 Sep 2003). Also directed by Attenborough, it will be the first production he has himself directed since taking over as artistic director last year (See "Changing of the Guard: Almeida", Features, 12 May 2003). The Mercy Seat opens on Thursday 30 October 2003 (previews from 23 October) and continues to 6 December.

- by Terri Paddock