Illness is wreaking havoc in the West End this week. While producers of The Sound of Music this morning confirmed that Connie Fisher will be off for the next fortnight (See Today’s Other News), the year’s biggest play opening, Equus, featuring Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe in his stage debut, has also been reined in just days after its opening to rave reviews (See Review Round-up, 28 Feb 2007).

Radcliffe’s co-star Richard Griffiths, a stage veteran who won myriad Best Actor prizes for Alan Bennett’s The History Boys in London and New York, has missed the past four performances of Equus at the Gielgud Theatre – Friday evening, Saturday evening and matinee and last night – and is scheduled to be off again tonight (Tuesday, 6 March).

In the meantime, Griffiths’ part of Martin Dysart, the psychiatrist to Radcliffe’s disturbed teenager Alan Strang, is being played by Colin Haigh, who’s usual part of stable owner Harry Dalton is being played by Jami Reid-Quarrell. The unscheduled cast change seems to have caused chaos as the understudies had not had sufficient rehearsal time since the production only opened last Tuesday. On the Whatsonstage.com Discussion Forum, theatregoers who attended performances at the weekend complained that Haigh was so unprepared he resorted to reading from the script.

The nature of Griffiths’ ill health has not been disclosed. The show spokesperson told Whatsonstage.com that it’s hoped the actor will return tomorrow, but the theatre will be informed on a day-by-day basis. Theatregoers should contact the box office about the current status and to request refunds and/or exchanges.

In Equus, psychiatrist Martin Dysart (Griffiths) tries to solve the problem of why a quiet 17-year-old with a routine life and loving family would suddenly blind six horses with a hoof pick. What drove Alan Strang (Radcliffe) to such an act of violence? Peter Shaffer’s play was originally presented by the National Theatre at the Old Vic in 1973, directed by John Dexter, and starring Alec McCowen as the psychiatrist and Peter Firth as the patient.

Equus is directed by Thea Sharrock - outgoing artistic director of west London’s Gate Theatre, who previously directed Griffiths in the West End in Heroes - and designed by the play’s original designer John Napier, who was lured out of semi-retirement for the revival. The cast also features Will Kemp, Jenny Agutter, Gabrielle Ready, Jonathan Cullen and newcomer Joanna Christie. David Pugh and Dafydd Rogers produce.

- by Terri Paddock