Vanessa Redgrave will star in a new West End production of Lady Windermere's Fan. Joining Redgrave and her daughter Joely Richardson will be film star and stage actress Googie Withers, whose stage career began in 1934 and included a 1945 production of Coward's Private Lives. With her will be heart-throb television star Jack Davenport and veteran actor David Yelland.
Yelland, who specializes in aristocratic period roles (he played the Prince of Wales in the film "Chariots of Fire"), co-starred with Ian Richardson and Susannah York in a film version of "Star Quality," the "forgotten" Coward play that is currently on at the Apollo, starring Penelope Keith.
Lady Windemere's Fan is directed by Sir Peter Hall.
* In a case of life imitating art, The Royal Family, the play about a larger-than-life theatre dynasty currently playing at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, will be followed after its limited run, by a real life theatre dynasty - the Redgraves - in Lady Windemere's Fan.
The Redgrave dynasty was founded when Michael Redgrave married Rachel Kempson. Redgrave was sufficiently well regarded to earn a knighthood, while Kempson became a star in her own right. Their daughter Vanessa became the family's theatrical (and film) standard bearer, accompanied by her sister Lynn and brother Corin.
In recent years Vanessa has continued to be a bankable star, while Corin has grown in stature to become one of the most distinguished actors of his generation. Brother and sister starred together nearly two years ago in Noel Coward's Song at Twilight at the Gielgud Theatre. Corin Redgrave's wife, Kika Markham, is also an accomplished actress and played the third of four characters in the play, the fourth being played by Mathew Bose. Lynn Redgrave recently starred in the current production of Noises Off at the Piccadilly.
Vanessa's daughters Joely and Natasha have both become successful actresses in their own right, making the Redgraves easily the most successful theatrical family in Britain.
As is the case with The Royal Family, Lady Windemere's Fan is directed by Sir Peter Hall, whose son Edward is also a director, thus proving that directing like acting can run in families.
Hall's production first appeared - and ran successfully in a variety of venues - in the late 1990s, and has proved a regular favourite with audiences. The Redgrave connection is likely to give it a further boost when it opens in February.