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Cast: Titmuss' Lady Macbeth, Girls, Dench Dream

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Glamour model-turned-actress Abi Titmuss will make her Shakespeare debut this week, playing Lady Macbeth in what's being billed as “the most ambitious production of the year”.

Titmuss, who since rising to fame as a model and reality TV star has been steadily building up her theatre CV, will tackle the role in director John Hales' modern dress production, which promises a “fresh take on this classic play”.

Macbeth, which opens at The Seagull Theatre in Lowestoft from 18-22 November 2009, will subsequently visit the Fisher Theatre, Bungay (24-26 November), the Sudbury Art Centre (27 November), Open, Norwich (29 November) and The Cut in Halesworth (4 December).

Titmuss' recent stage acting credits include a national tour of The Naked Truth and Up 'n' Under at Hull Truck. She told the Evening Star newspaper recently: “I want to earn people's respect. I have never been interested in being famous for being famous. I want to do something and do it well.”

“It's terrifying but also unbelievably exciting and I remember talking to the director John Hales in the summer about it and how daunted I was by it and how much respect I have for it - but at the end of the day it's a play. You can't spend too long being afraid of it, you have to get on and do it. I am an actress and I just feel very lucky that I am able to do it.”

The company for next year's tour of Calendar Girls has been announced. Lynda Bellingham (who starred in the original tour), Jan Harvey, Letitia Dean, Gemma Atkinson, Debbie Chazen and Judith Barker will lead the cast when the tour kicks off at the Chichester Festival Theatre (where it premiered last year) on 27 January 2010.

The touring cast also includes Kathryn Rooney (currently in the West End production), and Bellingham's son Michael Peluso, who makes his stage debut as the photographer. After Chichester, the tour visits The Lowry, Salford, Birmingham Hippodrome, Southend Cliffs Pavilion, Leeds Grand, Milton Keynes Theatre, Theatre Royal Newcastle and Sheffield Lyceum.

Tim Firth’s adaptation of the award-winning Miramax film Calendar Girls, for which he also wrote the screenplay, tells the real-life story of the members of a Yorkshire chapter of the Women’s Institute who decide to pose nude for a charity calendar. Helen Mirren, Julie Walters, Penelope Wilton and Celia Imrie starred in the 2003 screen original, also written by Firth.

In other casting news:

  • Judi Dench will be joined in Peter Hall’s production of A Midsummer Night's Dream by Oliver Chris (Bottom), Annabel Scholey (Hermia), Rachael Stirling (Helena), Charles Edwards (Oberon), William Chubb, Msimisi Dlamini, Richard Keightley, James Laurenson, Ben Mansfield, Reece Ritchie, Susan Salmon, Simon Scott, Sophie Scott, Timothy Speyer, Julian Wadham, Leon Williams and Tam Williams. The production, which opens at the Rose Theatre, Kingston, on 15 February 2010 (previews from 9 February), marks a reunion for the long time collaborators - Dench first played Titania for Hall with the Royal Shakespeare Company back in 1962 (See News, 15 Aug 2009).
  • The full cast of Richard Eyre's forthcoming West End production of Private Lives, which opens at the Vaudeville Theatre on 24 February 2010 for a ten-week season, has been confirmed. Joining the previously announced Kim Cattrall and Matthew Macfadyen (See News, 23 Oct 2009), are Lisa Dillon (Sybil), recently seen in When the Rain Stops Falling at the Almeida, and  Simon Paisley Day (Victor), whose recent theatre credits include Entertaining Mr Sloane for English Touring Theatre, Timon of Athens at Shakespeare’s Globe and The 39 Steps in the West End.
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