IT is the haunting sci-fi story which inspired a classic Russian movie, as well as Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney.

Now Solaris, the seminal 1961 novel by Polish writer Stanis?aw Lem, is to be realised on the stage by the Royal Lyceum Theatre.

Solaris - a tale about scientists probing a huge sentient, oceanic planet and their subsequent contact with unsettlingly strange phenomena - is being adapted for the stage by David Greig, playwright and director of the Lyceum.

The sci-fi tale will have a notable change from the novel and films, as Dr Kris Kelvin, the protagonist, will be a woman.

In the celebrated 1972 film by Andrei Tarkovsky, Kelvin was played by Donatas Banionis, in the 2002 version, he was played by Clooney.

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The production will be part of the Lyceum's 2019/20 season, and is a co-production with the Malthouse Theatre in Melbourne, Australia, where it will open in June 2019.

The play continues the theme of movies playing a role in the Lyceum's productions: it is also making a stage version of Bill Forsyth's Local Hero, and Touching the Void, which was also a film based on Joe Simpson's book.

The cast has yet to be fully confirmed but it will include Eamon Farren, whose recent credits include Richard Horne in Twin Peaks and Cust in The ABC Murders.

The gender reversal in the new play, which will be directed by Matthew Lutton, will mean that the dead lover or partner that haunts Kelvin on her expedition will be a young man, rather than a woman.

Matthew Lutton also directed last year's production of Picnic at Hanging Rock.

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Greig said: "It was Matthew that suggested it.

"The book has one of the best premises - and the book's tone is playful, it has a lot more common with Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Red Dwarf than you might think: the whole opening chapter is the hilarious history of scientists who have studied Solaris, it is dazzling and funny.

"But the more I looked it, I thought: why hasn't this been a play before? It is three people in an enclosed environment [a space station], a new person arrives and they experience visitors, or ghosts, which changes the attitude to what they should do.

"It is a play: a one room play - now of course outside the room is a giant sentient planet, but the basic premise is there."

He said the oceanic planet would present obvious challenges to represent on the stage, but ones surmountable with special theatrical effects and lighting.

Greig added: "The book has this heart, that really blew me away, because at its core you are looking at this planet that is a sea, but the sea is consciousness, and they cannot work out whether it is God: Does it understand everything? Or is it a child?"

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He said that the play, which will feature an international cast, would be primarily drawing from Lem's novel, rather than the films, for its primary inspiration.

The story, he noted, was also "deeply about suicide" and its impact.

Greig said: "Tarkovky’s film is moving and atmospheric but discovering the novel was like uncovering a whole new layer – lively and witty and playful and strange.

"But this novel, and our imagining, is also a return to the future as it was conceived in the sixties – science fiction on stage is so often about tin foil, sliding doors and empty space whereas this is about mahogany bookcases, smoking cigarettes and spools of tape."

Greig became the eighth artistic director of The Lyceum in 2016.

On the lead role of Dr Kelvin, he said: "A brilliant thing about sci-fi is that it allows you to say: in 100 years in the future, why on earth would we not expect to see a mixture of races and men and women?

"So we are hoping to get a multi-ethnic cast from different parts of the world: because why on a space station would it not be like that?

"We looked at Kelvin...and I looked at the suicide of the lover: Kelvin's lover in the book is his wife who committed suicide at 20, and she really doesn't have a personality.

"When you flip it, there are just fewer stereotypes of the older woman looking back at the younger male lover.

"Kelvin is a psychologist and an astronaut: it is a fantastic part to play."