Janet Suzman (pictured) and Ann Mitchell will join American television star Kim Cattrall in the updated ‘feminine’ version of Brian Clark’s 1978 play Whose Life Is It Anyway? (See News, 23 Jul 2004). The production, directed by Sir Peter Hall will have a limited 16-week season from 25 January to 30 April 2005 (previews from 7 January) at the West End’s Comedy Theatre. (Originally booked for the Duke of York’s Theatre, the play’s venue change was announced last month - See News, 27 Sep 2004.)

The Liverpool-born Cattrall, best known as the libidinous Samantha Jones from Sex and the City, will make her West End debut as paraplegic Claire Harrison, an intelligently independent and sexy sculptor who, forced to rely on others following a road accident, fights to reclaim the crucial decisions about her own life and death.

Suzman, who plays Dame Jane Millhouse, has worked extensively for the Royal Shakespeare Company, where her roles have included Cleopatra, Clytemnestra and Helen of Troy, while, more recently, she appeared in the RSC production of The Hollow Crown. In the West End, she’s appeared in Hedda Gabler, The Sisters Rosensweig and Three Sisters, while her film credits include A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, The Singing Detective and Leon the Pig Farmer.

Mitchell, who plays Sister Anderson, was nominated for Best Actress in the Evening Standard, Laurence Olivier and Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers’ Choice Awards for her performance opposite Simon Callow in last year’s Through the Leaves, which transferred to the West End after a limited season at Southwark Playhouse.

Also in the cast are William Chubb (who just appeared in Galileo’s Daughter, Don Juan and Man and Superman in Hall’s summer season at the Theatre Royal Bath) as Doctor Emerson, Amita Dhiri (Feelgood, The Crucible, TV’s This Life as Miss Hill, Alexander Sidding as Doctor Scott, Jotham Annan as John, Rachel Bavidge as Margaret Boyle and Emma Lowndes (The Rise and Fall of Little Voice) as Nurse Kay Sadler.

Originally produced for television, Whose Life Is It Anyway? had its stage premiere at London’s Mermaid Theatre in 1978, when Tom Conti starred as the artist, Ken Harrison. The award-winning production transferred to the West End. Clark rewrote the play for a female lead and Mary Tyler Moore won a Tony Award for her portrayal of Claire Harrison in the 1979 Broadway production. The 1981 Hollywood film starred Richard Dreyfuss as Harrison.

Clark has newly updated the play to take into account medical advances over the past 30 years. In an age when doctors can keep patients alive irrespective of quality of life, the question of freedom of choice remains highly topical.

Currently at the Comedy, Simon Gray’s play The Old Masters - directed by his long-time collaborator and fellow playwright Harold Pinter and starring Edward Fox and Peter Bowles - has extended its season to 18 December (See News, 16 Sep 2004). Whose Life Is It Anyway? is produced in the West End by Sonia Friedman Productions and Mark Rubinstein.

- by Terri Paddock