Richard Briers, who was to return to the stage for a final time next month (See News, 31 Jul 2009), has withdrawn from Complicite’s upcoming production of Samuel Beckett\'s Endgame at the Duchess Theatre. He’s been replaced by Mark Rylance in the lead role of Hamm. The production has been postponed as a result. Originally due to open on 24 September (previews from 18 September), it will now open on 15 October (previews from 2 October) and continue, as scheduled, until 5 December 2009.

Briers was due to star alongside Adrian Scarborough as Clov for the first six weeks, but Scarborough has had to withdraw due to a busy schedule preparing for Alan Bennett\'s new play The Habit of Art, which premiere at the National Theatre in November (See News, 24 Apr 2009). He’s been replaced for the full run by Complicite’s Simon McBurney, who is also directing the production.

Briers said today: “After much soul searching, I have taken the difficult decision to withdraw from Endgame. It was a long-held promise to play the role opposite Adrian. When that was no longer possible, I felt I had to leave the production although it meant losing the possibility of working with a great director and old friend, Simon McBurney. It is with great regret that I leave the company and wish Simon and Mark the best. I look forward to seeing the production when it opens at the Duchess.\"

Rylance will come to Endgame direct from his current starring role in Jez Butterworth’s new play Jerusalem, which finishes its extended premiere season at the Royal Court this Saturday (15 August 2009). The Endgame cast also features Tom Hickey as Nagg and, as previously reported, Miriam Margolyes as Nell.

Set in a bare, partially underground room, Beckett\'s 1957 existentialist play finds a wheelchair-bound Hamm passing the time by ordering his servant Clov to move him around, fetch objects and peer out the window for signs of life, while his bin-dwelling parents Nagg and Nell look on.

Endgame was last seen in the West End in 2004, when Matthew Warchus directed a cast led by Michael Gambon and Lee Evans at the Albery Theatre (See News, 15 Dec 2003). This new production is directed by Complicite co-founder Simon McBurney (whose recent credits for the company include Shun-kin, A Disappearing Number, Measure for Measure and A Minute Too Late), designed by Tim Hatley, with costumes by Christina Cunningham, and sound by Christopher Shutt.

Theatregoers who booked to see Endgame with Briers and Scarborough can apply to their point of sale for a full refund before the 2 October should they no longer wish to attend. Those who booked for performances before the rescheduled first preview on 2 October will have priority booking for a later performance of their choice.