The Clare Higgins-headed production of Phaedra at the Donmar Warehouse, which was due to start previews last night (5 April 2006), has cancelled its first week of performances and rescheduled its press night after the sudden withdrawal of actor Paul Nicholls (pictured), who is suffering from a severe throat infection. The play was due to open next Tuesday (11 April 2006). The press night has been postponed until Friday 21 April, following previews which will now begin on Thursday 13 April.

Best known to TV viewers from his role in EastEnders, Nicholls has built up a solid stage reputation since leaving the soap several years ago. His recent theatre credits include Festen, Vincent in Brixton and Long Day’s Journey into Night. Nicholls’ replacement in the role of Hippolytus has not yet been cast – there are no understudies at the 250-seat Donmar.

Higgins takes the title role in Frank McGuinness’ new version of Racine’s 1677 piece of classical tragedy, directed by Tom Cairns. The cast also features Sean Campion, Michael Feast and Linda Bassett, as well as Marcella Plunkett, Lucy-Anne Holmes and Janet Whiteside.

The production must finish its limited season on 3 June 2006 as planned. It’s followed, from 13 June to 5 August 2006 (previews from 8 June), by the Derek Jacobi-led revival of A Voyage Round My Father, John Mortimer’s 1970 autobiographical play about his relationship with his blind barrister father (See News, 6 Dec 2005). Jacobi will now be joined in the cast of Thea Sharrock’s production by Dominic Rowan (Forty Winks, Dream Play, Three Sisters, The Talking Cure), Natasha Little (Vanity Fair on screen, The Vagina Monologues and The Novice on stage) and Joanna David (TV’s Bleak House, Pride and Prejudice, The Forsyte Saga).

Theatregoers with tickets to the cancelled performances of Phaedra are advised to contact their ticket agent or the Donmar Warehouse box office 0870 060 6624 to arrange refunds or exchanges.

- by Terri Paddock