Two leading theatre companies are on the lookout for talent – with plum roles in forthcoming productions up for grabs.

Hitchin’s Bancroft Players are planning to stage Alan Bennett’s hit comedy The Lady In The Van in May – and are hoping their own version of ‘find the lady’ will come up trumps.

And in Stevenage the Lytton Players have announced the arrival of evergreen comedy thriller The Ghost Train in April, and are looking to attract a doctor to the house.

The Bennett play – a big West End hit based on his own experiences with a cantankerous old dear who parked her van in his drive and stayed for years – was released on the big screen with Dame Maggie Smith in the title role.

And the search starts for someone to step into the Downton Abbey and Harry Potter star’s shoes next week.

The company’s Julian Newman Turner said: “The Queen Mother Theatre is looking for its own Dame Maggie – well, almost.

“We’ve been given exclusive local rights to perform the play – the original stage version also starred Dame Maggie as the complex and rather grimy Miss Shepherd.

“If you think you have what it takes, come along to the audition workshop on Tuesday.”

Auditions start at 8pm, and you can call 01462 455166 to register your interest, too.

The play will run for a week from Monday, May 16, at the Walsworth Road theatre.

In Stevenage a cast shuffle has opened up the key role of Doctor Sterling in The Ghost Train, which opens on Wednesday, April 20.

Director Dave Slade explained: “We recently lost the actor playing the lead role, and that part has now gone to the chap who was playing Doctor Sterling, so now we are looking for a new doctor.”

The mystery medical man, aged between 30 and 50, appears among the passengers stranded in a spooky railway station halfway through the second act and is on stage pretty much non-stop until curtain comes down on the play, an evergreen for companies up and down the country and originally written in the 1920s by Arnold Ridley, best known as Private Godfrey in Dad’s Army.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the role email before Sunday and Dave will give you more details about what’s involved. Rehearsals for this production will be held on Tuesdays and Fridays.