It looks like Southwark Playhouse has pulled off something of a casting coup, with Celia Imrie and Ella Smith rumoured to be teaming up for a new production of Sheridan's The Rivals early in the new year.

The director attached is Jessica Swale, an associate at Out of Joint theatre company who are currently touring Mixed up North which stars, among others, Celia Imrie.

Ella Smith, meanwhile, hasn't been seen on the London stage since her award-winning performance in Neil LaBute's Fat Pig at Trafalgar Studios in 2008 (See Review Round-up, 28 May 2008).

Written by Richard Brinsley Sheridan in 1775, The Rivals features one of English theatre's most famous comic characters, Mrs Malaprop, whose mangling of the dictionary prompted its own entry. It centres on the romantic affairs of two couples - Lydia Languish, who wants to elope with the penniless (but false) Ensign Beverley, and Lydia's dithering cousin Julia, who has lost her heart to the jealousy-prone Faulkland.

Imrie will play Mrs Malaprop, while Smith, who won Newcomer at both the Evening Standard and Critics' Circle awards for Fat Pig, is in line to play Julia.