Just two weeks after opening, Ronald Harwood's play Mahler's Conversion, starring Antony Sher, has announced its West End closure in two weeks' time. The play, which opened at the Aldwych Theatre on 2 October (following previews from 19 September), was booking up to 2 February 2002. It will now close three months early on 2 November 2001.

Although Sher's performance was praised by many, Mahler's Conversion itself received generally mixed reviews on opening. But it is not alone in suffering at the moment. It is the sixth premature closure in the West End, following the September 11th terrorist attacks in America. The musicals Peggy Sue Got Married, Closer to Heaven, Notre Dame de Paris and The Witches of Eastwick have all been high-profile casualties as has the political satire Feelgood.

Mahler's Conversion deals with a professional and moral dilemma of anti-semitism. Composer Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) desperately wants to secure the top job in the musical world of Vienna, conductor of the Court Opera. But Mahler is a Jew, and to achieve his ambition, he must convert to Catholicism. He may be willing, but there's a bigger price to pay.

Antony Sher's last appearance on the London stage was in the RSC's 1999/2000 production of Macbeth, in which he was nominated for a Best Actor Olivier for his performance in the title role. An associate actor with the RSC, Sher is well known for his classical turns. His other stage credits include Cyrano de Bergerac, Richard III, King Lear and Stanley. Also an artist and novelist, the South African-born Sher, now 50, published his autobiography in May 2001. "Beside Myself" details, amongst other things, his past struggles with his Jewishness, homosexuality and cocaine addiction.

Sher is joined in the Mahler cast by Nickolas Grace, Gary Waldhorn, Anna Francolini, Fiona Glascott and Alexandra Mathie. RSC associate director Gregory Doran, who also directed Sher in Macbeth, directs Mahler's Conversion, which is designed by Stephen Brimson-Lewis, with lighting by Tim Mitchell and sound by John A Leonard.

Ronald Harwood's stage plays include The Dresser, J J Farr, Reflected Glory, Taking Sides and Equally Divided. His last play in the West End was Quartet in 1999.

- by Terri Paddock