American actor David Soul (pictured) has settled out of court in his dispute with the The Mirror newspaper over its review of his 1998 London production of The Dead Monkey. Soul brought a libel case against the paper and columnist Matthew Wright who claimed that the play was the worst he had ever seen in the West End - despite the fact that he had never actually seen it. Soul accepted an estimated £20,000 in damages.

In his Mirror column, published in October 1998 when The Dead Monkey had a nine-week season at the West End's Whitehall Theatre, Wright asserted that the production and performances by Soul and his co-stars were so bad that they elicited laughs of derision from audience members, many of which had to be begged by the ushers not to walk out. The journalist also claimed that only 45 people turned up for the stated performance on a Monday evening, and that he had never seen a worse play staged in the West End.

Soul's solicitor, however, showed that Wright had never actually seen the play himself, but rather, that a freelance journalist had attended on his behalf. Further, he claimed that the performance in question attracted an audience of approximately 130 and that none had been prevented from leaving.

In addition to the damages monies, Wright will also pay Soul's legal costs, thought to be in the region of £150,000. Commenting on the result of the legal action, Soul said: "I stand really strong on the side of fair comment and opinion about the theatre. I think it's a cornerstone of the theatre, but you have to see the play, you have to be there, you have to have the facts."

Best-known as Hutch from the 1970s American TV series Starsky and Hutch, Soul settled in the UK many years ago. His other stage credits include Blood Brothers, Speed the Plow, The Aspern Papers and Comic Potential. In the new year, he'll be appearing in a major tour of Deathtrap.

The Dead Monkey, a black comedy by Nick Darke, was originally premiered by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1986. Soul's revival, which also featured his partner Alexa Hamilton, was originally seen on the London fringe, at the New End Theatre in Hampstead. After its West End run, it was resurrected at a London nightclub, with Soul's former Starsky and Hutch co-star Antonio Fargus ("Huggy Bear") joining the cast.

- by Terri Paddock