Almost 2,000 professional actors applied for the four featured roles in the forthcoming Youth Theatre production of Pride and Prejudice at The courtyard.

"They were people who had had big parts in EastEnders, The Bill, Emmerdale and the like, and we auditioned over two days - selecting a short list was hard," says Pride and Prejudice director David Durant. "The level of experience some of them had was so high, including working wiht the National Theatre and the RSC.

In the event, the four roles that will be played by professional actors - Elizabeth Bennet, Mr darcy, mrs Bennet and Mr Bennet, went respectively to Hannah Douglas, Tom Gordon Alison Rose and George Telfer.

Employing professional actors for selected role is something David believes is essential to the production, and is something he first did with last year's Lord of the Flies when two professionals took the two pivotal roles of Jack and Ralph.

"The biggest challenge in Pride and Prejudice is the language," he says, "and we might not have done it without professional actors with the experience to tackle it."

When we first did it with Lord of the Flies I was very nervous, he admits. "Where Youth Theatre as good as I knew they could be, and were the professionals going to be as strong and pliable as I hoped. And what happened in the event was that everyone discovered their first love. Everyone was on the same page and the professionals started to enjoy it and the young people realised they were good at what the did.

What I am really looking forward to is that mix again.

"And," adds press office Abby Jones, " for the young people to work with the professional actors makes things look more achievable. They have dreams as well. It encourages their dreams."

In Lord of the Flies, one girl wanted to be involved backstage which completely changed her opinion of what she wanted to do, and now she's at university studying stage management. That's what it's all about.

One of the reasons I have chosen Pride and Prejudice is the humour - Mrs Bennet is losing it, on the verge of going mad if she doesn't marry off her daughters while Mr Bennet keeps setting her up, only to come up with what she wants and she loves him again.

But he couldn't be more delighted to be directing one of his favourite works of literature: "It's an absolute classic and I completely love it," he says. "It has some of the best lines in all of literature and it's raucous fun from the moment you start to the moment you finish. Jane Austen's understanding of people and her ability to capture them and their humour, their good points and their bad, is just joyous."

Pride and Prejudice is almost part of the British DNA - everybody has an opinion on it, which makes it a massive challenge to stage.