TV stars Leigh Lawson, Simon Shepherd and Philip Franks will form the 23rd cast for the West End production of Yasmina Reza's long-running comedy, Art, now at the Whitehall Theatre. They'll have a limited seven-week London season before embarking on a new national tour, the show's third. They take over at the Whitehall from 3 December 2001 and continue to 19 January 2002.

The trio replace the current cast (pictured) of Nigel Havers, Roger Lloyd Pack and Barry Foster, playing Marc, Serge and Yvan, three friends who fall out over a white-on-white piece of modern art.

Lawson, who plays Mark in the new cast, has been seen most recently on television in Unsuitable Job for a Woman, Absolutely Fabulous and the title role in Kinsey. His stage credits include many productions for the National Theatre and the RSC and Peter Hall's production of The Merchant of Venice in New York. Shepherd, who is Serge, is currently starring in TV's Peak Practice. His films include Rogue Trader and Kenneth Branagh's Henry V, while on stage, he has appeared in Bent at the Royal Court. Franks, who plays Yvan, currently features in TV's Heartbeat. His additional TV work includes Martin Chuzzlewit and The Darling Buds of May, while his stage credits include Hamlet (RSC) and Marat/Sade (National).

The London production of Art - translated by Christopher Hampton and directed by Matthew Warchus - has long attracted well-known actors for its short stints. The original cast starred Albert Finney, Tom Courtenay and Ken Stott. Subsequent casts have featured Henry Goodman, David Haig, Anton Lesser, Tom Mannion and Art Malik as well as comedians Frank Skinner and Jack Dee. Imported American casts have also brought the likes of Patrick Duffy, Richard Thomas, Judd Hirsch, George Wendt and Stacy Keach to the West End.

The new 2002 tour of Art will launch in Sheffield before visiting Darlington, Poole, Eastbourne, Richmond, Cheltenham, Reading, Plymouth, Newcastle, Nottingham and Northampton, with further dates still to be confirmed.

- by Terri Paddock