Veteran actor John Woodvine in theatre collapse


Veteran stage and screen actor John Woodvine was in a stable condition in hospital today after collapsing while performing in a musical last night.

During his long career Woodvine, 82, has performed alongside Sir Ian McKellen and Dame Judi Dench as Banquo in Macbeth, and is well known for his role as Detective Inspector Witty in the 1960s TV police drama Z Cars.

More recently he played Frank Gallagher's father Neville in the Channel 4 comedy drama Shameless, and his film credits include An American Werewolf In London.

But during his latest performance as the Star Keeper in the musical Carousel, Durham-born Woodvine collapsed in the wings at the Grand Theatre in Leeds.

The actor, who had a long career with the Royal Shakespeare Company, is in a stable condition in hospital, according to show producers Opera North.

John Wilford, 71, was among the audience and told how they were informed the show would not go on after Woodvine was taken ill.

The retired journalist from Leeds said: "Suddenly the action on stage appeared to slow down and stumble. Then suddenly the safety curtain came down.

"A man reached into the orchestra pit and told the conductor to stop playing.

"He jumped on stage and said: 'Is there a doctor in the house?'

"There was a surprised silence. When we were told the show was stopped, the audience took a moment to digest it and then stood up and applauded."

A member of staff said Woodvine collapsed about ten minutes after his first entrance, soon after the performance of the classic show tune "You'll Never Walk Alone".

She said: "He sounded fine. Then there was a silence and stage management asked if there was a doctor in the house. They had brought the safety curtain in and another announcement was made for the audience saying there had been a medical emergency and the performance would be temporarily stopped.

"People were running around backstage looking pretty panicked, nobody knew what was going on. People said the paramedics had turned up and he was getting his heart pumped at the side of the stage."

A spokeswoman for Opera North said: "A member of the cast was taken ill during yesterday's performance and the performance was stopped.

"They are stable and there is nothing more to update at this moment. Members of the audience are being contacted this weekend and offered tickets to an alternative performance of Carousel ahead of the final show in Leeds on May 19."

The producers said the remaining performances of the show would go ahead.

A spokeswoman for Yorkshire Ambulance Service said they received a call at 9.58pm last night to reports of a man collapsing at the Grand Theatre.

A rapid response vehicle and an ambulance were sent and the patient was taken to Leeds General Infirmary, she said.

Woodvine's role as Star Keeper will be performed by understudy Peter Bodenham tonight and for "foreseeable" performances, Opera North said.


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