Following the death of the role's creator James Hazeldine on Tuesday night (See Today's News, his latest replacement in the world premiere of Christopher Hampton's The Talking Cure at the National Theatre has pulled out.

Signed up on Monday, actor John Carlisle was due to return to the National stage - having three weeks ago completed a run of Tom Stoppard's epic The Coast of Utopia trilogy in the Olivier - to play Sigmund Freud to Ralph Fiennes' Carl Jung (See News, 16 Dec 2002). But a National spokeswoman told "After a couple of days of rehearsal, John decided he wasn't going to be able to do justice to it."

Carlisle was the third actor cast for the The Talking Cure role - Bill Paterson was recruited last week, when Hazeldine initially fell ill, but also withdrew after two days - and the National had been in talks with numerous others. They have now decided not to attempt another recast. Instead, the younger actor and fellow cast member Dominic Rowan (pictured) will continue playing both Freud and his own character, Otto Gross.

Since Hazeldine's departure, Rowan has been reading Freud from the script, but the spokeswoman said he "practically knows it all" at this point and will now learn the part in its entirety for the production's remaining performances. The original press night - on Thursday, 12 December - was cancelled, but the aim is now to have staggered press performances from 13 January 2003. The entire run to 5 February 2003 has long sold out on the strength of Fiennes' name.

The cast have all been having a difficult time dealing with the death of Hazeldine, who was extremely popular with his peers. According to the NT spokeswoman, "Everyone is so sad and shocked by Jimmy's death, we're just trying to get through Christmas and the New Year."

The Talking Cure deals with the early years of Jung and his decision to experiment, using Freud's controversial new method of psycho-analysis, with a young Russian patient, Sabine Spielrein. The success of the experiment and the blossoming of his relationship with Sabine inaugurates, haunts and ultimately poisons Jung's relationship with Freud.

The production is directed by Howard Davies and designed by Tim Hatley, with costumes by Jenny Beaven, lighting by Peter Mumford, music by Dominic Muldowney and sound by Christopher Shutt. The cast also includes Jodhi May, Nancy Carroll and Valerie Spelman.

- by Terri Paddock