Man in the Iron Mask is forced to quit the stage shame-faced after two nights

Unfortunately for the producers of a West End musical version of the swashbuckling French historical drama, the critics hated it and the action - what there was of it - has been halted.

Just two days after its premiere at the Duchess Theatre gave rise to some of the most scathing reviews of recent times, it was announced that Behind the Iron Mask was to close.

In a statement, the producers sought to blame the fierce trading conditions in London's theatreland, despite figures on the same day showing that attendances were up on last year.

"The current state of the West End has meant that many shows are discounting to keep running. It has been difficult for a new musical to sustain sufficient audience levels and meet its running costs," they said.

However, the real reason for its sudden end, apart from the show itself, were the critics.

Behind the Iron Mask sought to retell the story of the mysterious masked aristocrat who is ensconced in a prison cell with the best of everything the 17th century could muster, except for human companionship. Until the arrival of a buxom Gypsy, that is, played by the show's star, the Prince of Wales's former favourite singer, Three Degree turned I'm A Celebrity contestant, Sheila Ferguson.

She led a cast that, according to one critic, performed "as if they have been on a prolonged Mogadon bender". According to The Daily Telegraph, despite the display of cleavage, Ferguson played the role of the Gypsy temptress "like a roguish suburban matron who has been overdoing the Babycham."

Robert Fardell re-created the eponymous hero behind what appeared to be a "battered saucepan screwed to his head". Another view, this time from The Independent, was that the famous headwear looked rather more like "a cross between Hannibal Lecter and a metalwork-class disaster".

The Daily Express concluded that at the heart of the show's failure was that "a man in an iron mask is simply not best placed or best voiced to sing for more than two hours through, as here, some of the most leaden lyrics ever devised".

As for the jailer, played by Mark McKerracher, his accent veered "between Dutch and Danish". His performance "suggests he would rather be anywhere than in this pile of ordure - a sentiment I suspect with which we can all concur," said the Telegraph.

But at the heart of any musical - even one described as cobbled together from the unwanted parts from Phantom of the Opera and Les Misérables - is the music. And John Robinson's tunes come in for their fair share of abuse. "It [the music] would not bother you were it being piped into a lift, but his lyrics would," observed The Guardian.

One exchange between the Gypsy and the masked hero sums up the way the producers may now be feeling about the whole thing: "Why do you wear the iron mask?/Don't ask!/What is your name?/I'm insane!"

The last performance will be on 20 August.

What the critics said

"It is so bad that it is merely unendurable relentlessly, agonisingly third rate" - Daily Telegraph

"To suggest that 'Behind The Iron Mask' is terrible doesn't do justice to its relentless awfulness" - Daily Express

"Anyone who pays £43.50 for a ticket to this embarrassment deserves to be locked up for a very long time" - Evening Standard

"I would quite happily have volunteered for death myself to help speed things up" - The Guardian

"...exerts about as much romantic fascination as a biscuit tin with a jammed lid" - The Independent

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, seated next to a picture of his missing wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike

film
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene

Friends 20th anniversary
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham

booksReview: Lena Dunham, Not That Kind of Girl
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments