As previously tipped (See The Goss, 25 Oct 2005), comedienne Dawn French (picture) and former pop singer Alison Moyet will star in the premiere of Smaller, a new play written by TV scriptwriter Carmel Morgan and directed by actress-turned-director Kathy Burke. It will start performances at the West End’s Lyric Theatre on 28 March 2006, following a six-week regional tour.

French (pictured), best known as one half of comedy double act French & Saunders, last appeared in the West End in the 2003 one-woman play My Brilliant Divorce. Her other West End credits include Silly Cow and A Midsummer Night's Dream, in which she played Bottom. On television, French's acting credits include The Vicar of Dibley, Murder Most Horrid and Let Them Eat Cake.

Moyet made her West End debut in 2001, playing prison matron Mama Morton in Kander and Ebb musical Chicago. She first rose to prominence via the popular duo Yazoo, whose hits included the chart-topping Only You. Her subsequent solo albums included Alf, Raindancing and Essex. She has written some original music for the new play, in which she’ll also sing.

In Smaller, French and Moyet, friends in real life, play sisters. Bernice Clulow (French) is a cheerful schoolteacher burdened with the care of her disabled mother (played by June Watson). The stress of the task has already driven away her sister Cath (Moyet), who left the country to work in musical theatre and now sings for hen parties in Puerto Banus.

Debut playwright Morgan’s television credits include Shameless and Coronation Street. An award-winning screen actress, for the past several years Kathy Burke has increasingly concentrated on directing for the stage. Her directing credits include The Quare Fellow for Oxford Stage Company, Blue/Orange at Sheffield Crucible, Kosher Harry at the Royal Court, Out in the Open, Love Me Tonight and Born Bad at Hampstead Theatre, Betty in the West End and, currently at the Donmar Warehouse, the UK premiere of Sam Shepard’s The God of Hell.

At a Outing to The God of Hell last month (See The Goss, 25 Oct 2005), Burke talked exclusively to theatregoers about Smaller and the irony of the play’s title: “We are three larger ladies (French, Moyet and Burke) so our meetings look like moving Beryl Cook paintings!” She added that Morgan’s play is “a touching comedy about how the grass is always greener on the other side. And it’s very different to The God of Hell - which is great because I always like to do something different. I don’t want to stick to doing the same things all the time.”

The tour launches on 15 February 2006 at the Theatre Royal, Bath, and continues to Milton Keynes, Canterbury, Brighton, Nottingham and Birmingham, where it concludes on 25 March prior to its West End run from 28 March.

- by Terri Paddock