Joan Collins' West End comeback vehicle, Over the Moon, has become something of a farce both on stage and off. Rumours of cast discord have now culminated with the resignation of Collins' leading man, Frank Langella.

Just two weeks after Over the Moon's opening at the Old Vic, producers have confirmed that Langella will be leaving the production this week, with his final performance on Saturday 3 November. Michael Cochrane, who is rehearsing his lines this week, takes over from next Monday. Cochrane is best known as Oliver in BBC Radio Four's The Archers.

Set in Buffalo, New York in 1953, the screwball backstage comedy centres around George (Langella) and Charlotte (Collins) Benson, aging thesps who battle with each other and the odds in their attempts to secure their last-chance career break.

A spokesperson for show producer Bill Kenwright has said that Langella, an American stage veteran, has had an offer back home that was too good to resist and was therefore released early from his ten-week contract. However, rumours abound about the unhappy relationship between the play's real-life co-stars. Collins and Langella have reportedly not spoken in over three weeks, while another rumour has it that the bandage Collins sported on her thumb during last week's performance was a result of an overly aggressive fencing rehearsal with Langella.

A show insider told Whatsonstage.com that, though Collins has been painted in some quarters as the troublesome prima donna, quite the opposite was true. From the beginning, Langella had been "very ungracious" and "uncooperative", refusing to do interviews despite the fact that he is relatively unknown in this country. Being from New York, the 11 September terrorist attacks didn't help the situation, said the source. "That really affected Frank and there was a sense of him wanting to be home with his kids."

Over the Moon, formerly titled Moon Over Buffalo, opened at the Old Vic on 15 October 2001, following previews from 9 October and a brief regional tour. It is currently booking up to 12 January 2002.

Also in the cast are Emma Barton, Paul Bentley, Cameron Blakeley, Robert Fitch and Sarah Wateridge. Co-produced by Yvonne Arnaud Theatre and Ray Cooney Presentations, Over the Moon is directed by Ray Cooney, designed by Tim Goodchild and presented in the West End by Bill Kenwright.

- by Terri Paddock