Judi Dench (pictured) has been forced to withdraw from this weekend’s performances of Madame de Sade due to an ankle injury. The actress stumbled when leaving Wyndham’s Theatre after last night’s performance of the Yukio Mishima play and suffered a serious sprain.

According to a statement released by the Donmar Warehouse this afternoon: “As Judi Dench was leaving the theatre, she tripped at the stage door and fell. She was taken to A&E where she was diagnosed with a severely sprained ankle. Doctors have advised that she bring no weight to bear on her foot for the time being.

“As a consequence, Judi's role of Madame de Montreuil will be performed this weekend by her understudy Marjorie Hayward. The Donmar theatre company and Judi apologise for any upset or inconvenience this may cause, and wish to reassure those with tickets that it is her intention to return to the role next week.”

Madame de Sade, the third production in the Donmar West End season at Wyndham’s, started preview performances last Friday, 13 March 2009, and prior to the opening night this past Wednesday, 18 March, an estimated 80 percent of tickets for the play’s limited season – which finishes on 23 May - had already sold, largely on the strength of Dench’s name. Despite expectations, however, the critics were largely underwhelmed this week by the piece itself (See Review Round-up, 19 Mar 2009).

Written by the Japanese playwright in 1965, and translated by Donald Keene, Madame de Sade is set in 18th-century France and centres on five women affected by the debauchery of the Marquis de Sade. Dench plays the Marquis’ mother-in-law opposite Rosamund Pike as her daughter, the title character. Also in the cast are Frances Barber, Deborah Findlay, Fiona Button and Jenny Galloway.

- by Terri Paddock