Following in the footsteps of Marie Jones' award-winning, Stones in His Pockets, another Irish comedy arrives in the West End later this month. Brought direct from Ireland care of Stones co-producer Pat Moylan, Alone It Stands begins a limited seven-week season at the Duchess Theatre with previews from 27 December 2001 and an opening on 2 January 2002.

Aside from the Moylan and Irish connection, John Breen's Alone It Stands shares another key similarity with the hit Stones, still running at the Duke of York's Theatre. It features a small cast playing myriad characters - in this case, six actors representing a total of 60 characters, versus Stones's two actors playing more than a dozen.

In Alone It Stands, however, it's rugby that turns things topsy-turvy rather than a Hollywood film crew. In 1978, the mighty New Zealand All Blacks embarked on a tour of Ireland. After beating every national and regional side, the unthinkable happened. They played the Munster local rugby team and not only lost but didn't even score - something that hadn't happened to this sporting powerhouse in decades.

The real-life incident has been described as the greatest moment in the history of Irish rugby. It has since achieved folk status because the match was not televised and only witnessed live by a few thousand people in the stunned local crowd. In Breen's play, the actors (five men and one woman) play assorted spectators, players, coaches and even a group of uninterested children who were present for this David and Goliath event.

Alone It Stands was first seen at the Yew Tree Theatre in County Mayo. It has since toured throughout Ireland and visited the Edinburgh festival. The Duchess season will mark its London premiere. Breen is now adapting the story for a film version.

Joe Penhall's Blue Orange, currently resident at the Duchess, finishes its run at 15 December 2001. Life After George, starring Stephen Dillane and directed by Michael Blakemore follows Alone It Stands into the Duchess in February 2002.

- by Terri Paddock