Theatre News

Show goes on for Brian Blessed after collapsing during King Lear

The veteran actor fell off his throne during the opening scene earlier this week

Rosalind Blessed (Goneril) and Brian Blessed (King Lear) in King Lear
Rosalind Blessed (Goneril) and Brian Blessed (King Lear) in King Lear
© Matt Pereira

Big-voiced actor Brian Blessed collapsed during a performance of King Lear for the Guildford Shakespeare Company on Monday.

Blessed, who is playing Lear at the Holy Trinity Church in Guildford, suffered a heart problem during the first scene.

WhatsOnStage's Michael Coveney, who attended the production the following evening, reported in his review: "[Blessed] fell off his throne in the first scene, thus abdicating before he'd even divided up the kingdom."

But the determined Blessed, who has previously scaled Everest, returned to the stage shortly after being attended to by a doctor to continue the performance.

"He carried on after 20 minutes ('Is there a doctor in the house?' was a new interpolation by the Earl of Kent) and was as robust at last night's opening – onstage and off – as any hale and hearty 78 year-old could wish," adds Coveney.

Among the attendees on Monday was the Mail's critic Quentin Letts, who wrote that Blessed was "barely conscious" after the fall and lay "flat on his back and surrounded by worried cast members including his daughter Rosalind", who plays Goneril in the production.

Of Blessed's subsequent stage return, Letts adds: "You cannot keep an old pro down for long and Mr Blessed is of the 'show must go on' school."

King Lear is playing at the Holy Trinity Church in Guildford until 14 February. For more information and to book tickets click here. You can also read our exclusive interview with Brian Blessed here.