Frances de La Tour (pictured) and Owen Teale are confirmed to star alongside Sir Ian McKellen in the new year when he returns to the London stage for the first time in five years with August Strindberg's Dance of Death (See News, 22 Nov 2002). The production opens at the West End's Lyric Theatre on 4 March 2003, following previews from 20 February.

Multiple Olivier Award winner De La Tour's many stage credits include Fallen Angels, Antony and Cleopatra, The Cherry Orchard, Three Tall Women, A Moon for the Misbegotten and Duet for One. The actress is also a familiar television face, most notably for her role in the long-running 1980s comedy Rising Damp.

Welshman's Teale was most recently seen in the title role of Ivanov at the NT Cottesloe. His other stage credits include A Doll's House which, after the West End, transferred to Broadway where it won him a Tony Award for his performance as Torvald.

McKellen appeared in Dance of Death on Broadway last year when it opened just days after the 11 September terrorist attacks. Despite the unfortunate timing, the production - which was directed by fellow Brit Sean Mathias and then also starred Helen Mirren - received critical acclaim and fared well during its four-month season. In London, the play will receive an all-new production, though directed once again by Mathias and translated by American playwright Richard Greenberg (Take Me Out, Three Days of Rain.

McKellen was last seen in London in the 1997 showings of Enemy of the People and Peter Pan at the National. The following year, the multi award-winning actor publicly decried West End audiences and declared he was ready to get back to "proper", ie regional, theatre. He signed up to a repertory season at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, where he appeared in a triple bill of Present Laughter, The Tempest and The Seagull. Since then, McKellen has mainly been tied up with film commitments, most notably, The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

- by Terri Paddock