Dates for the premiere of John Fisher's new play Cooper! Not Like That, Like This, which will star Soldier Soldier's Jerome Flynn as the late comedian, have been confirmed (See The Goss, 11 Oct 2002). The production, directed by Simon Callow, will have a brief regional tour in March 2003 - visiting Malvern, Oxford and Plymouth - before opening in the West End on 8 April 2003 (previews from 2 April). A West End venue has yet to be finalised.

Cooper died on stage at Her Majesty's Theatre in 1984 of a heart attack. His act combined hammy comedy with a classic sense of timing. This enabled him to rehash old jokes, and to make a humorous mess of magic tricks whilst wearing his trademark fez hat. Set on the night of his death, Cooper! Not Like That, Like This provides a behind-the-scenes insight into the private man and the working life of Britain's famously manic magician.

In addition to his 1990s starring role as Paddy Garvey in five series of Soldier, Soldier, Jerome Flynn's other screen credits include Badger, Best, Lake of Darkness, Ain't Misbehavin' and To Kill a Priest.

Cooper! Not Like That, Like This is directed by actor-author-director Simon Callow, choreographed by dancer Lionel Blair and designed by Christopher Woods, with magic director by Geoffrey Durham and lighting by Nick Richings.

Callow will also be busy at the start of the next year, when he takes to the stage himself to star opposite Ann Mitchell in Through the Leaves, by German playwright Franz Kroetz, at the Southwark Playhouse from 9 January to 1 February 2003.

As an actor, Callow's other recent stage credits include The Mystery of Charles Dickens, The Importance of Being Earnest and The Chimes at Midnight, while he's appeared in numerous films including Shakespeare In Love, Four Weddings and a Funeral and Howard's End.

- by Terri Paddock