Veteran actor Robert Hardy has withdrawn from playing Winston Chuchill in new play The Audience due to injury. Edward Fox will take over the role.

According to a press statement: "It is with great regret that the producers of The Audience have accepted Robert Hardy's decision to withdraw from the production.

"Hardy, 87, recently suffered a fall and cracked some ribs, yet continued to perform at all of the preview performances last week. Over the weekend he has decided that a schedule of eight performances a week over a long run is not sustainable and he has therefore reluctantly decided to stand down."

The Audience - which stars Helen Mirren (pictured below in rehearsals with Hardy) as Queen Elizabeth II - opens at the Gielgud Theatre on 5 March 2013 (previews from 15 February).

Director Stephen Daldry said: "Robert is one of theatre's great actors and for him to have accepted this challenge at his age speaks of his courage and commitment to the theatre. That he feels unable to continue is a great sadness to us all but we respect his decision and wish him a return to full health and strength very soon."

Written by Peter Morgan (The Queen), the play breaks the contract of silence and reveals a series of pivotal meetings between various Downing Street incumbents and their Queen.

From Churchill to Cameron, each conversation reveals a soundboard and confessional moment that shows a complex side to the Queen who consoles, advises and on occasions, teases. From young mother to grandmother these private audiences chart the arc of the second Elizabethan Age.

Edward Fox's myriad stage credits include Knuckle, The Family Reunion, A Letter of Resignation, Lloyd George Knew My Father, The Chiltern Hundreds, The Old Masters, Four Quartets, Legal Fictions and Trollope in Barsetshire.

Joining Mirren and Fox in the cast are Michael Elwyn as Anthony Eden, Haydn Gwynne as Margaret Thatcher, Richard McCabe as Harold Wilson, Nathaniel Parker as Gordon Brown, Paul Ritter as John Major and Rufus Wright as David Cameron.

The Audience began previews at the Gielgud Theatre on 15 February 2013, with press night on 5 March and is booking to 15 June 2013. Designs are by Bob Crowley with lighting by Rick Fisher, sound by Paul Arditti, music by Paul Englishby and video by Ian William Galloway.