Keeley Hawes returns to stage for first time in a decade

Keeley Hawes at BBC Radio 2's studios in London
Keeley Hawes last appeared on the stage in 2013's Barking In Essex
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Bodyguard and Line of Duty star Keeley Hawes is to return to the stage for the first time in a decade with a new play at London's Donmar Warehouse.

She will appear in the world premiere of Lucy Kirkwood's new romantic drama The Human Body alongside The Morning Show star Jack Davenport.

Hawes told BBC News she was "so thrilled to be returning to the stage".

The production is part of the final season for the Donmar's artistic director Michael Longhurst.

Set in 1948, The Human Body will see Hawes play Iris Elcock, a GP and Labour Party councillor working to implement Nye Bevan's National Health Service Act and its promise of free health care for all.

But the life she shares with her husband in Shropshire is disrupted by a chance encounter with George Blythe (played by Davenport), a local boy who has made it to Hollywood.

The production, directed by Longhurst and Ann Yee, will play at the Donmar from 16 February until 13 April 2024.

Hawes said: "Lucy Kirkwood has created a brilliant, complicated, inspiring role in Iris, and the play tells a wonderfully tender and human story against the backdrop of a significant moment in our country's history.

"I'm so thrilled to be returning to the stage, and especially to the Donmar for Michael Longhurst's swansong as artistic director."

Davenport's last theatre role was in a production of Enemies in 2006, while Hawes last appeared in stage in 2013 with the comedy Barking In Essex.

However, she left the production about two weeks before it was due to close following reports she had clashed with her co-star Sheila Hancock. Hawes was replaced by understudy Rachel Marwood for the remaining shows.

Adeel Akhtar with the Supporting Actor Award for his performance in 'Sherwood' during the 2023 BAFTA Television Awards with P&O Cruises at The Royal Festival Hall on May 14, 2023 in London, England
Sherwood star Adeel Akhtar, who won a Bafta earlier this year, will appear in Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard

A new version of Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard will also form part of Longhurst's final season after five years at the helm.

The in-the-round production, due to open on 26 April, will star Sherwood actor Adeel Akhtar and Homeland's Nina Hoss.

Benedict Andrews will direct the production of Chekhov's final play, which tells the story of a Russian landowner who is forced to sell her aristocratic family's estate to pay off debts.

Completing the season is the European premiere of Eboni Booth's Primary Trust, directed by Matthew Xia, following its off-Broadway run earlier this year.

The show follows Kenneth, a man in his late 30s who works in a small bookstore in upstate New York. But when the shop shuts down, Kenneth is forced out of his comfort zone to face a world he has long avoided.

During its US run, the Wrap described Kenneth as "one of the most heartbreaking characters to appear on the New York stage in recent memory", while the Daily Beast said it was "one of New York's best new plays".

Ahead of his final season, Longhurst said: "It has been an unalloyed privilege to helm the Donmar Warehouse for the last five years. There is nowhere more special to me than its auditorium, the moment before the house opens.

"It vibrates with possibility, awaiting a fresh wall of eyes and hearts to embrace it. A tiny breath of quiet on what has been an exhilarating journey through a tumultuous time for our industry.

"As I share this final new season, which echoes with revolution, celebrates change and the power of community - and which draws together an incredible collection of international artists and stories - I want to say thank you to all the audiences, staff and artists who have shared this journey with me and animated our space. I truly hope you enjoy the shows."

Earlier this year, it was announced David Tennant will star in a new production of Macbeth to mark the Donmar's 30th birthday. It will open next month.

Tim Sheader, who currently runs Regent's Park Open Air Theatre, will take over from Longhurst in March.