Just days after last Thursday’s press performance, Nicky Henson has had to permanently withdraw from the Royal Shakespeare Company’s new production of Twelfth Night due to ill health. From 24 May 2005, he’ll be replaced in the role of Sir Toby Belch by Clive Wood (pictured), who has already started rehearsals.

Wood’s many previous credits for the RSC include Antony and Cleopatra, Much Ado About Nothing, Henry VI Parts 1, 2 & 3, the title role in Pilate and, in last year’s Tragedies season, Macduff in Macbeth and Claudius in Hamlet.

Twelfth Night is the second offering in this year’s season of Comedies at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon. The production, directed by RSC artistic director Michael Boyd and designed by Tom Piper, opened on 28 April 2005 (previews from 22 April).

Ahead of Wood’s arrival, the part of Toby Belch is being played by understudy Christopher Roberts. The cast also features Kananu Kirimi (Viola) Richard Cordery (Malvolio), Meg Fraser (Maria), Forbes Masson (Feste), John Mackay (Andrew Aguecheek), Barnaby Kay (Orsino) and Aislin McGuckin (Olivia).

Further ahead in the Comedies season, Henson was due to appear as Duke in As You Like It. That part will also be recast shortly. RSC associate director Dominic Cooke’s production - in which Lia Williams (Skylight, The Homecoming, Mappa Mundi) makes her RSC debut as Rosalind and Olivier Award winner Amanda Harris plays Celia - joins the repertoire in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre on 17 August 2005 (previews from 5 August).

- by Terri Paddock & Hannah Kennedy