Eddie Izzard, the cross-dressing comedian, is going straight. Just when you'd got used to him in a skirt, he is donning trousers again to star in the world premiere of David Mamet's The Cryptogram. His brave journey into the world of drama will be cushioned by the fact that the play opens at the Ambassadors Theatre, home of his Olivier Award-nominated stand-up success. Coincidentally, his co-star will be Lindsay Duncan, who led the original cast of Les Liaisons Dangereuses at the same theatre.

At one point, Alan Rickman was the hot tip for the role in this three-hander about abandoning a child. Rickman proved to be unavailable but suggested Izzard. He even went so far as to set up a reading (at which he played the child) with Izzard and Duncan.

The casting makes shrewd business sense - Izzard ran five months at the Ambassadors and sold out his entire season at the 800-seat Albery Theatre - but it is also hugely commendable. Producers are famously loathe to cast against type. Actors are forever complaining of achieving success in a particular role and then being forced to perform endless minor variations on the same theme for the rest of their lives.

Mind you, we've been here before. Madonna - accused of many things, but rarely of being a great actress -starred in the original New York production of Mamet's earlier play Speed the Plow. Izzard is understandably nervous. He hasn't done straight theatre since being in school plays, but his stage experience augurs well for a far more successful drama debut than Ms. Ciccone's. And who knows, once it's up and running, he may even be able to use his days to write The Cows, his famously long-awaited television sitcom.

(Photograph omitted)