Juliet Stevenson and Downton Abbey stars Brendan Coyle and Lesley Nicol among those to perform at The HighTide Festival in Halesworth

Seventy-five of the country's top actors and actresses will be in Halesworth next week as the annual HighTide Festival returns.

Among them will be Downton Abbey stars Brendan Coyle and Lesley Nicol, and Susan Brown, of Torchwood, who will all be performing in the show Seizing Cinderella, while Juliet Stevenson will be interviewed about her career on stage.

Festival artistic director Steven Atkinson said he was delighted to be able to announce the star names in the line-up – in particular Juliet Stevenson on stage on May 6.

'It is really nice as they are names you expect to see either on television or film or doing a West End play, so to get them to Suffolk is a testament to how highly they think of the writers at the festival,' he said.

Others appearing in Seizing Cinderella, by Stephanie Street, are Louise Brealey, from Sherlock, Steven Miller, from Casualty and Alison Newman, from Footballers' Wives.

Russell Floyd, who was in Eastenders and The Bill, and Matilda Ziegler, from Lark Rise to Candleford, are among those performing in Clockwork, by Laura Poliakoff.

The festival was extended from a long-weekend to a two-week showcase last year, but after becoming a national portfolio organisation of Arts Council England, the celebration of theatre has been able to expand further with 18 new plays instead of four.

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'There are so many really good plays out there at the moment,' said Mr Atkinson. 'The audience at the festival from Suffolk and Norfolk is a really good audience, who are really passionate.'

Mr Atkinson said he saw it as a launch pad and hoped that in 20 years the event would be known as the theatre version of the Aldeburgh Festival, which is renowned for classical music.

'I think it is internationally known now and in only six years it is extraordinary that people in New York know about this rural part of East Anglia,' he said.

'Hopefully year-on-year we can continue to grow and bring the best internationally-renowned artists and new talented writers to perform.'

Among the highlights at this year's event is the European premiere of The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, about the former boss of Apple.

Mr Atkinson added that there would also be a talk on May 5 about the media furore around Mr Jobs featuring journalists Ben Hammersley and Libby Purves and director Jean-Michele Gregory, and a talk on May 13 class warfare featuring writers Alan Bissett, Owen Jones and Ella Hickson.

HighTide Festival 2012 takes place at The Cut, The Rifle Hall and The Printworks from May 3-13.

For more details visit www.hightide.org.uk and call 020 7566 9767.

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