The Royal Shakespeare Company has postponed tomorrow’s press performance (3 April 2007) of Trevor Nunn’s much-anticipated staging of King Lear, starring Ian McKellen in the title role, due to the absence of leading lady Frances Barber (pictured), who has seriously injured her knee in a bicycle accident (See News, 17 Jan 2007).

An alternative press night will be announced shortly. Previewing since 26 March, King Lear continues at Stratford-upon-Avon’s Courtyard Theatre until 23 June 2007. It’s joined in rep by The Seagull, which is also directed by Nunn and performed by the same company of 23 actors, with a press night scheduled for 31 May. Following Stratford, both productions visit Newcastle’s Theatre Royal (29 June – 7 July) and then embark on an international tour to Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and the US, concluding in Los Angeles on 28 October 2007.

Although critics will no longer be attending, tomorrow night’s performance of King Lear will go ahead with understudy Melanie Jessop in the role of Goneril. In a statement issued this afternoon, Trevor Nunn said: “It is very unfortunate that Frances’ injury means we must delay the press performance of Lear, but Ian (McKellen) and I both feel that the production should be seen in its entirety as it has been rehearsed, and that it would be unfair on the understudy to be reviewed in only her second performance in the role. Frances will have to undergo surgery in the next few days. We are hopeful that she will soon recover and be able to resume her role in Lear, and as Arkadina in the forthcoming production of The Seagull.”

Barber previously played opposite McKellen in the Old Vic’s Aladdin in 2005/6. She won the Award for Best Actress in a Musical for Closer to Heaven 2002 and was nominated for Best Actress in a Play for her role as Nurse Ratched opposite Christian Slater in the 2004 West End run of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Last summer, she starred as Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra at Shakespeare’s Globe.

The company for King Lear and The Seagull also features: Romola Garai (Cordelia/Nina), Sylvester McCoy, Monica Dolan, Jonathan Hyde, Ben Meyjes and William Gaunt. Others in the cast are: Ben Addis, Adam Booth, Russell Byrne, Richard Goulding, Julian Harries, John Heffernan, Peter Hinton, Seymour Matthews, David Weston, Guy Williams, Philip Winchester, Zoe Boyle, Naomi Capron and Melanie Jessop. The productions are designed by Christopher Oram, with lighting by Neil Austin, sound by Fergus O’Hare and music by Steve Edis.

- by Terri Paddock