Doctor Who star Christopher Eccleston’s latest stage project was hastily cancelled at the weekend. Announced just before Christmas (See News, 21 Dec 2005), the new production of Peter Whelan’s 1992 historical thriller The School of Night - in which Eccleston was signed up to star as 16th-century playwright Christopher Marlowe - was due to open on 27 February 2006 (previews from 13 February) at the West End's Comedy Theatre, where it was booking until 3 June.

However, ticket agents were informed on Saturday that the run had been cancelled and all dates were taken immediately off sale. No explanation is being given for the cancellation. A statement released today on behalf of the producers says simply that the production is “now no longer able to go ahead”. It continues: “The producers are hoping that a production of the play take place in the future, and in the meantime, they are discussing other projects with Christopher Eccleston who was cast as the central character, playwright, poet and spy, Christopher Marlowe.”

Eccleston was last seen in the West End six years ago in Miss Julie at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. His other stage credits include Hamlet (at West Yorkshire Playhouse in 2002) Abingdon Square, Bent (National), Dona Rosita and A Streetcar Named Desire (Bristol Old Vic). In addition to the new Doctor Who, which he handed over to David Tennant last year at the end of the first series, Eccleston has been on film and television in the likes of Shallow Grave, Jude, Elizabeth, Cracker, Our Friends in the North, 24 Hour Party People, Gone in Sixty Seconds, The Others, Hillsborough, 28 Days Later, The Second Coming and Clocking Off.

The School of Night investigates the mystery surrounding Christopher Marlowe's sudden untimely death – allegedly in a pub brawl - and his association with the leading political and literary figures of the 16th-century including Thomas Kyd, Sir Walter Raleigh and William Shakespeare. The play also looks into Marlowe’s recruitment by Sir Francis Walsingham as a part-time secret service agent prior to beginning a glowing literary career. In 1593, following his arrest on a charge of treason, Marlowe's unexpected death, at the age of just 29, was reported. His plays include The Jew of Malta, Doctor Faustus, Edward II and Tamburlaine the Great, which was recently revived as part of the Young Vic and BITE Barbican’s Young Genius season (See News, 17 Jun 2005).

The School of Night was commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company and premiered in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1992. Peter Whelan's many other plays for the RSC, where he is an honorary associate artist, include The Accrington Pals, The Bright and Bold Design and The Herbal Bed. His latest play, The Earthly Paradise, premiered at the Almeida in 2004.

The School of Night was due to be directed by former RSC associate director Bill Alexander, designed by Simon Higlett and presented by Merrington Productions, ATG, Mark Rubinstein Limited, Lee Menzies and TEG Productions.

Currently at the Comedy, Peter Gill’s revival of John Osborne and Anthony Creighton’s 1957 play Epitaph for George Dillon - starring Joseph Fiennes, Francesca Annis and Award nominee Anne Reid – is due to finish its four-month run on 14 January 2006. It will be followed by Polish acrobatic show Caesar Twins and Friends, which will have a limited three-week season, from 23 January to 11 February 2006 (See News, 21 Dec 2005). No further productions have yet been announced.

- by Terri Paddock