Veteran director John Caird (pictured) today launches his new company, dedicated to developing new playwrights and directors, with a two-week season at the fringe venue, Upstairs at the Gatehouse, in Highgate, north London.

The Caird Company's aptly named "New Writing & Directing" fortnight will feature two productions of new plays - Body and Soul and Soap Opera - as well as 16 rehearsed readings, eight evening discussions and various other workshops and seminars. In all, the season will involve 30 new writers and directors, working with over 100 actors of all levels of experience and a handful of practicing professionals.

In addition to Caird, the stage veterans lending their support, involvement and multi-disciplined skills include: John Barton, Alain Bloubil, Robert Butler, David Edgar, James Fenton, Peter Flannery, Pam Gems, Vicki Ireland, Charlotte Jones, Gary Kemp Fiona Lair, David Lane, Simon Treves and David Wood.

Body and Soul, written by John Mighton and directed by Adrian Osmond, opens the fortnight tonight, Tuesday 13 November. Billed as a "hilarious, haunting tale of virtual sex", the play trawls through necrophilia, suicidal dogs, biology and technology to ask "can our desires ever be fulfilled".

The other main production is of Gyorgy Spiro's Soap Opera, translated by Andrew bock and directed by William Galinsky. Causing a controversy when it was originally seen in Hungary, the play explores the issue of compensation for war crimes when a Hungarian woman is tracked down by a salesman who wants to sign her up for a Jewish reparations scheme.

Founding earlier this year and run in conjunction with Caird's existing Mustardseed Arts Trust for new writers, the Caird Company is committed to the production, exploration and development of work by new writers and directors, both British and international.

Caird continues his own successful involvement with British theatre. His latest production, of Charlotte Jones new play, Humble Boy, will transfer to the West End in the new year, at the end of a sell-out season at the National. He has had many other acclaimed productions, frequently at the National or the RSC, including Simon Russell Beale's Hamlet, Nicholas Nickleby, As You Like It and Les Miserables.

- by Terri Paddock