The world premiere of Skin Deep - the first new play by Ben Elton in eight years, which was due to open at Watford Palace in February 2006 ahead of an expected West End transfer - has been indefinitely postponed (See News, 5 Jul 2006).

Billed as a “dark and brutally hilarious comedy for our times”, Skin Deep centres on a famous woman who lies in bed recovering from yet another bout of cosmetic surgery. As the bandages are removed, her life also starts to unravel and she soon discovers that the real world, the one she thought she had left behind, is a very dangerous place to live in.

Elton’s earlier plays in the West End were Gasping (starring Hugh Laurie), Silly Cow (with Dawn French) and, perhaps most successfully, 1996’s Popcorn, which won the Olivier Award for Best Comedy. He’s also had West End success with the musicals The Beautiful Game (for which he provided the book to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s score), Queen’s We Will Rock You and Rod Stewart’s Tonight’s the Night, both of which he wrote and directed. Elton’s last play, Blast from the Past, premiered at Leeds’ West Yorkshire Playhouse in 1998.

The former comedian’s many other credits include The Young Ones, Blackadder, The Ben Elton Show, The Man from Auntie and The Thin Blue Line on television; Maybe Baby on film; and the novels Stark, Gridlock, This Other Eden, Popcorn, Blast from the Past, Inconceivable, Dead Famous, High Society, Past Mortem, The First Casualty and, just released this month, Chart Throb.

With regards to Skin Deep, a Watford Palace spokesperson told Whatsonstage.com that Elton and the theatre “jointly agreed that the play wasn’t quite ready to go into production”. Elton, who remains busy with other projects, is “continuing to work on it”. The theatre is hoping to be able to reschedule the premiere production for the end of 2007 but no date has been confirmed.

Skin Deep was meant to run from 1 February to 3 March 2007. instead, director Christopher Luscombe will now revive Alan Bennett’s 1980 play Enjoy for a limited season from 8 February to 3 March 2007.

- by Terri Paddock