Higgins and Atwell join Major Barbara cast

Published April 17, 2008

Clare Higgins, Hayley Atwell and Paul Ready join the previously announced Simon Russell Beale in the National Theatre’s 2008 production of Major Barbara. Following the success of Saint Joan – for which Anne-Marie Duff collected the 2007 Evening Standard Theatre Award for Best Actress – Artistic Director Nicholas Hytner revives another Bernard Shaw classic from 26 February.

Between them, Russell Beale and Higgins, who play Lord and Lady Undershaft, have six Laurence Olivier Awards. Russell Beale has awards for Best Actor (Uncle Vanya 2003), Best Actor In A Musical (Candide 2000) and Best Supporting Performance (Volpone 1996). Higgins’s awards have all come for Best Actress, winning for Hecuba (2005), Vincent In Brixton (2003) and Sweet Bird Of Youth (1995). A West End regular in recent years, Higgins has also appeared in Phaedra (Donmar Warehouse), Night Of The Iguana and Death Of A Salesman (both Lyric).

The award-winning duo is joined by exciting young actress Hayley Atwell, who will play the title role. Atwell, who graduated from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 2005, returns to the National where she previously appeared in The Man Of Mode. She has also been seen in the Royal Shakespeare Company production of Women Beware Women, and on television in Ruby In The Smoke and Mansfield Park.

It is set to be an exciting 2008 for Atwell, who also has two films released. In The Duchess she stars opposite Keira Knightley, Ralph Fiennes and Charlotte Rampling, and in Brideshead Revisited she plays Julia Flyte alongside Emma Thompson, Michael Gambon and Ben Whishaw.

For Ready, who plays Adolphus Cusins, Major Barbara will be his second Shaw piece at the National in two years, having also appeared in Saint Joan. Other National appearances include Attempts On Her Life and Waves, while elsewhere in London he has appeared in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.

Major Barbara is the tale of a Salvation Army worker put in an awkward position when her shelter receives a large donation from her estranged father, a millionaire weapons manufacturer. A visit to the factory, with its happy, well-fed workers, throws her ideals into question.

Before the opening of Major Barbara, the Olivier hosts family drama War Horse, which recently won the Evening Standard Theatre Award for Best Design, and Shakespearean comedy Much Ado About Nothing, which stars Russell Beale opposite two-time Laurence Olivier Award winner Zoë Wanamaker.

MA