Three-time Olivier Award winner Clare Higgins (pictured) and Hayley Atwell will join Simon Russell Beale in National Theatre artistic director Nicholas Hytner’s revival of George Bernard Shaw’s 1905 classic Major Barbara, which launches next year’s sixth annual Travelex £10 Season in the NT Olivier (See News, 14 Oct 2007). It opens on 4 March 2008 (previews from 26 February).

Major Barbara (Atwell) works tirelessly for the poor at a Salvation Army shelter until a large but morally dubious donation is welcomed from her estranged father, Andrew Undershaft (Russell Beale), a millionaire weapons manufacturer. But when she visits the factory itself, the well-fed workers in their thriving model town make a devastating case for arms trade profits and a whole new set of ideals. Higgins plays Barbara’s mother, Lady Britomart Undershaft .

Higgins has won Laurence Olivier Awards for Sweet Bird of Youth, Vincent in Brixton (at the National, ahead of Broadway and the West End) and Hecuba. Her other stage credits include Death of a Salesman, The Night of the Iguana, and most recently, the 2006 Donmar Warehouse revival of Phaedra.

Atwell appeared on the NT Olivier stage earlier this year in Hytner’s production of Restoration comedy The Man of Mode. Her screen credits include The Line of Beauty, Mansfield Park and The Ruby in the Smoke on television; and on film, Woody Allen’s Cassandra’s Dream, How About You and the upcoming Keira Knightley film The Duchess.


At the Royal Court (See News, 29 Oct 2007), Anton Lesser and Tom Riley will join Indira Varma in the UK premiere of David Hare’s The Vertical Hour, which is in the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs from 22 January (previews from 17 January) to 1 March 2008.

Nadia Blye (Varma) knows exactly what her stance is on Iraq. A former war reporter and professor of international relations at Yale, she has advised the president and seen action in Sarajevo and Baghdad. She is sure of her place in the world and her opinion of it. Until, that is, she meets an equally opinionated and lethally charming man - her boyfriend's father - over a weekend in Shropshire. His intervention has far-reaching consequences for them all. Riley is Blye’s boyfriend Phillip, Lesser is his father Oliver.

Lesser’s many stage credits - at the RSC, the National and elsewhere - include Julius Caesar, The Winter’s Tale, Cymbeline, Richard II, The Merry Wives of Windsor and The Taming of the Shrew, The Lucky Ones, Private Lives, The Birthday Party and Art. Riley has appeared at the Royal Court in The Woman Before and various readings.

Hollywood’s Julianne Moore and Britons Bill Nighy and Andrew Scott starred in the world premiere of Hare’s play, which was directed by former Donmar Warehouse artistic director Sam Mendes and opened in November 2006 for a four-month run at Broadway’s Music Box Theatre. The Royal Court production of The Vertical Hour is directed by Jeremy Herrin and designed by Mike Britton. Wunmi Mosaku is also in the cast.

- by Terri Paddock