UPDATED, 5.00pm 5 April 2005: Show producers confirmed today that neither Sharon Osbourne or her daughter will be returning to the cast of The Vagina Monologues, which starts performances tonight at the West End’s Wyndham’s Theatre.

Jenny Eclair and Diane Parish will appear throughout the run to 14 May, as previously planned. In the Osbournes’ absence, they will be joined by a series of other high-profile women. Dates so far confirmed as follows:

  • 5-9 April: Rula Lenska (Rock Follies, EastEnders)
  • 12-16 April: Lucy Speed (EastEnders)
  • 19-23 April: Alison Newman (Footballers’ Wives)

    Christine Hamilton and Heather Small, lead singer of M People, will appear during the final two weeks of the run. No further casting has yet been announced.

    UPDATED, 7.00pm 4 April 2005: This story has now been updated with photo & reporting from this evening’s press call at the theatre.

    Producers of The Vagina Monologues are fighting back after this weekend’s last-minute – and still officially unconfirmed – withdrawal of Sharon Osbourne and her daughter Aimee from the cast. The show will still go ahead, with performances starting tomorrow at the West End’s Wyndham’s Theatre (See Today’s Other News).

    Ahead of that, producers Mark Goucher and Sally Greene, who have still had no contact with the Osbournes since their apparent change of heart on Friday, held a photocall at the theatre this evening. At it, the two other previously announced cast members, comedienne Jenny Eclair and actress Diane Parish, were joined by actresses Rula Lenska, Alison Newman and Lucy Speed as well as reality TV star and former MP’s wife Christine Hamilton (the last two pictured with Eclair), who will now appear as special guests during the six-week season to 14 May 2005.

    Towards the end of the run, Heather Small, Clare Sweeney and Anita Dobson will also appear for selected performances. All of the women announced today have participated in the show at some point during its previous incarnations.

    Though as of today’s press event they had yet to hear from her, the producers are still hoping to secure Sharon Osbourne for at least part of her contracted stint, but are now arranging replacement casting for her daughter, who has reportedly fallen ill. Henceforth, the show will be advertised as featuring “three amazing women” nightly in addition to the “special guest star”.

    Theatregoers who have already booked, assuming they would see the Osbournes, will not be offered refunds. As with previous runs of The Vagina Monologues, a sizeable portion of the box office takings will be donated to women’s charities.

    The latest statement issued on behalf of the show producers follows.

    “The producers of The Vagina Monologues, Mark Goucher and Sally Greene, were shocked to discover a press release had been issued on Friday night saying that Sharon and Aimee Osbourne were withdrawing from the show.

    ”No communication has been made to them from Sharon Osbourne, her agent or her management to either inform them or discuss this development and the producers are continuing as a matter of urgency to try to clarify the position. With no official notification of this decision, the producers only know what they have learnt through the press.

    “With a substantial part of the show¹s income being donated to women¹s charities and the producers keen to honour this commitment, the production will still open tomorrow night, Tuesday 5 April, at London¹s Wyndhams Theatre (press night: Thursday 7 April).

    ”With Aimee afflicted by an undisclosed illness and unable to appear in the show, the producers have had to seek alternate casting to replace her role. They have tried to make contact with Sharon and her representatives on many occasions, but with no official notification of her withdrawal, they are hoping Sharon will still be taking part in the production.

    “The producers do no want to let down the V Day charities and are lining up a series of star replacements for Aimee. Many high-profile actresses will be showing their solidarity with and support for the show by making guest appearances in the production throughout its run.

    “V Day is a global movement to stop violence against women and girls, founded in response to the overwhelming reaction by hundreds of women to the award-winning play, The Vagina Monologues. Local groups raise awareness and empower women in their own communities through proceeds from the show.”