As previously tipped (See The Goss, Celia Imrie and Ella Smith, a best newcomer winner at both the Evening Standard and Critics’ Circle Awards last year, will star in a new fringe production of classic 18th-century comedy The Rivals, which is now confirmed to run from 12 to 30 January 2010 (previews from 12 January) at Southwark Playhouse.

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, who plays Mrs Malaprop, won an Olivier for Acorn Antiques, and her other stage credits include Plague Over England, Unsuspecting Susan, Habeas Corpus, The Way of the World and, most recently, Mixed up North. Her many films include Bridget Jones, Calendar Girls, St Trinians, Nanny McPhee and In the Bleak Midwinter.

Smith, who plays Julia, won her awards for her stage debut as the title character in last year’s West End premiere of in Neil LaBute's Fat Pig. Imrie and Smith are joined by Charity Wakefield (from TV’s Sense and Sensibility as Lydia and Harry Hadden-Paton (The Importance of Being Earnest) as Beverley/Captain Jack.

The Rivals cast will also feature Cian Barry, Oliver hollis, Frank Laverty, Christopher Logan, Jenni Maitland, Robin Soans and Sam Swainsbury. The production is directed by Jessica Swale and designed by Cara Newman, with lighting by Tim Bray and original music by Laura Forrest-Hay. It’s presented by Red Handed Theatre Company in association with Primavera.