Fans of the actor Robert Glenister expressed concerns for his wellbeing on Saturday after he pulled out of a leading role in a West End show after earlier collapsing on stage.
On Friday night theatregoers described how he “froze” mid performance, slumped his head in his hands and some audience members reported the he appeared upset, forcing stage managers to bring the curtain down on the play, Glengarry Glen Ross, for 30 minutes.
He received medical attention at the Playhouse Theatre in London.
An understudy stepped in to play Glenister’s part in the award winning David Mamet play.
Although it was hoped Glenister would be well enough to return for yesterday’s matinee and evening performance, the 57-year-old star of television shows Spooks and Hustle bowed out.
A notice at the theatre said “due to the indisposition of Robert Glenister the role of Dave Moss will be played by Mark Carlisle.”
It emerged that two weeks ago Glenister, a father of two, had fallen ill during a preview of the play when it was said that he shouted ‘Oh God’ and clutched his chest and required medical attention.
It was unclear whether Glenister had merely suffered every actor’s nightmare of stage fright or serious physical illness.
A spokeswoman for the play issued a statement explaining that Glenister became “unwell” during Act One of Friday’s performance, adding that he was now “feeling better and … will return to the show soon”.
The cast, including the American star Christian Slater, Kris Marshall, Stanley Townsend and Don Warrington, arrived early at the theatre on Saturday to rehearse with the understudy before the first of that day’s two performances of the Pulitzer-winning play.
Among those who witnessed Glenister’s collapse on Friday was American tourist, Tom Croom, 43, who was sat just feet from the actor when he became unwell during a scene set in a Chinese restaurant with Don Warrington, the acclaimed who starred in the sitcom Rising Damp.
“At first, I thought it was a very emotional performance,” Mr Croom said.
“He appeared a little bit flustered and was fidgeting. At one point he began pulling up his socks. It looked like he was very involved in a tense performance.
“Then, the other actor turned to Glenister and said, ‘Do you need help?’ Glenister replied, ‘Yes.’ Someone then said something off stage.
“They sat in silence for a moment. His face was very red, which I thought was embarrassment. He then put his head in his hands and it looked as if he was crying, the rest of his body was convulsing as if sobbing. It was as though he had become emotionally overwhelmed.
“It looked like he was breaking down, everything just came at once.”
Laurence Green, another member of the audience, recalls a lengthy silence.
“Out of the blue, Glenister stopped saying his lines, stared vacantly and his head dropped into his hands,” he said.
“At first, the audience thought it was part of the play. It seemed in keeping with his character.
“He didn’t really look unwell. There had been nothing to suggest that this was going to happen. Don Warrington next to him looked confused.”
Many of the audience took to Twitter to express their concerns for Glenister and hopes that he was fully recovered.
It was unclear whether Glenister would be well enough to return for Monday's performance.
Nearly a month ago Glenister lost a legal case against HM Revenue and Customs over unpaid National Insurance Contributions dating back more than a decade.
It is believed Glenister was employed through a personal services company for tax purposes and was asked to pay back £147,547.
He told the Financial Times that his case was one of a “few hundred” involving British actors, represented an “unfair cash grab” targeting self-employed actors as if they were employees.
He said he was planning to appeal.
The mental and physical stress placed on leading actors has been well documented over the years.
In 1995, Stephen Fry walked out of the West End show Cell Mates after suffering a breakdown.
He fled to Belgium leaving only a letter of apology.
It emerged that he had considered taking his own life and was later diagnosed as bipolar.
Sheridan Smith has admitted that she “self-medicated” in the run up to bowing out of the West End production of Funny Girl.
The award winning actress said she had been attempting to cope with her father’s cancer when she decided to quit the show, adding that her life had been “falling apart”.