Christopher Eccleston (pictured) - recently seen on TV screens as Doctor Who - will return to the stage in the new year to play another Christopher, 16th-century playwright Christopher Marlowe, in a new production of Peter Whelan’s 1992 historical thriller The School of Night. The revival, directed by Bill Alexander, will open on 27 February 2006 (previews from 13 February) at the West End's Comedy Theatre, where it’s initially booking until 3 June.

Eccleston was last seen in the West End six years ago in Miss Julie at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. His other stage credits include Hamlet (at West Yorkshire Playhouse in 2002) Abingdon Square, Bent (National), Dona Rosita and A Streetcar Named Desire (Bristol Old Vic). In addition to the new Doctor Who, which he handed over to David Tennant this year at the end of the first series, Eccleston has been on film and television in the likes of Shallow Grave, Jude, Elizabeth, Cracker, Our Friends in the North, 24 Hour Party People, Gone in Sixty Seconds, The Others, Hillsborough, 28 Days Later, The Second Coming and Clocking Off.

The School of Night investigates the mystery surrounding Christopher Marlowe's sudden untimely death – allegedly in a pub brawl - and his association with the leading political and literary figures of the 16th-century including Thomas Kyd, Sir Walter Raleigh and William Shakespeare. The play also looks into Marlowe’s recruitment by Sir Francis Walsingham as a part-time secret service agent prior to beginning a glowing literary career. In 1593, following his arrest on a charge of treason, Marlowe's unexpected death, at the age of just 29, was reported. His plays include The Jew of Malta, Doctor Faustus, Edward II and Tamburlaine the Great, which was recently revived as part of the Young Vic and BITE Barbican’s Young Genius season (See News, 17 Jun 2005).

The School of Night was commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company and premiered in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1992. Peter Whelan's many other plays for the RSC, where he is an honorary associate artist, include The Accrington Pals, The Bright and Bold Design and The Herbal Bed. His latest play, The Earthly Paradise, premiered at the Almeida in 2004.

Bill Alexander became an RSC associate director in 1984. His productions include Tartuffe, Richard III, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Merry Wives of Windsor (for which he won an Olivier Award for Best Director), The Merchant of Venice, Much Ado About Nothing, The Taming of the Shrew and, most recently, King Lear with Corin Redgrave. From 1992 to 2001, Alexander was artistic director of Birmingham Repertory Theatre, where he premiered Bryony Lavery’s Frozen, which he subsequently staged at the National Theatre.

The School of Night is designed by Simon Higlett and presented by Merrington Productions, ATG, Mark Rubinstein Limited, Lee Menzes and TEG Productions.

Currently at the Comedy, Peter Gill’s revival of John Osborne and Anthony Creighton’s 1957 play Epitaph for George Dillon - starring Joseph Fiennes, Francesca Annis and Whatsonstage.com Award nominee Anne Reid – finishes its four-month run on 14 January 2006. It’s followed by Polish acrobatic show Caesar Twins and Friends, which will have a limited three-week season, from 23 January to 11 February 2006 (See Today’s Other News).

- by Caroline Ansdell & Terri Paddock