Matthew Horne collapses onstage during Entertaining Mr Sloane

Gavin & Stacey star Matthew Horne has been replaced by an understudy after collapsing onstage during today’s midweek matinee performance of Joe Orton’s Entertaining Mr Sloane.

Matt Horne “seemed fine” during Act I, but audience members suspected something was wrong after the interval was unexpectedly stretched out. During a scene between Sloane (Horne) and Ed (Simon Paisley Day), Horne is described as either having “collapsed” or “fainted”, leaving Paisley Day stranded. Paisley Day had to appeal to the audience for help, asking any doctors in the audience to come forwards:”I think something’s gone wrong, is there a doctor in the house?“.

One audience member immediately moved to the front of the stage (BBC) while another offered to call 999, to be told it had been done. Audience sources say stagehands also came onto the stage, one speaking to reassure the audience.

Horne lay prone and apparently unconscious on the stage for ten minutes before paramedics arrived; he was treated onstage before a stage manager stepped forward asked audiences to leave the theatre. Horne did not move or speak during treatment, except to shake his head once when addressed by paramedics.

This evening, publicist Rupert Fowler told Sky News Online that Horne was suffering from “exhaustion”, following eight performances a week as Sloane. Despite this, Fowler was unable to say if Horne had left hospital, how serious his condition was, or if he would be returning to the production.

After Horne’s collapse, actress Imelda Staunton (playing Kath) also addressed the audience, apologising for the interruption, and saying that she had earlier felt ill as well. Staunton’s speech, which promised theatregoers they would be refunded, was on three occasions interrupted by emotional applause from the audience.

The theatre has confirmed that Staunton too will be replaced by an understudy at tonight’s performance. Horne’s understudy has been identified as Dead Wood actor Fergus Marsh.

Horne was using his Twitter account until this afternoon, joking: “What a beautiful day!!! … For doing a matinĂ©e and evening performance! Hope all’s tweetness and light for the Team”.

Poor guy. It’s not been a very good few months for West End stars being invalided out, has it? First Tennant, then Dench, now Horne and Staunton…

ETA: 3/4/2009 James Corden’s negative reports on Matt Horne’s condition are untrue; Matthew Horne has been released from hospital; Rob Brydon has unmasked the Twitter “James Corden” as a fake.

The readiness is all.

Ed Bennett, former Laertes and new leading man
Ed Bennett, former Laertes and new leading man

It’s news like the fact that David Tennant has been invalided out of the London run of Hamlet with a bad back that makes me wish I was back at work. Or showering the hospital and/or Ed Bennett with flowers. I was so excited to see the first picture of him as Hamlet today, though. I didn’t see the understudy run of Hamlet back in Stratford, but am sure he’s as great as the media reception says. It’s an amazing opportunity (and couldn’t happen to a nicer person), but god, being told you’re filling for David Tennant in an audience which at any given moment is 40% screaming fangirls? You could really be forgiven for wanting to vomit out your own spleen.

Fortunately, so far the press coverage (and punter comment) seems to have been as gracious as both Tennant and Bennett deserve. I was braced for people to start demanding their money back, berating Tennant or making snide remarks about celebrities in stage shows (of the Martine McCutcheon/My Fair Lady variety). Nobody who has seen Tennant, much less worked in the same building (even briefly and lowly as I did) could doubt just how hard he works – he never stops working, thinking or running (and, of course, he was bloody good). The man bolts on and offstage. It’s exhausting, even when your only related responsibilities are to stop the audience chasing him backstage (which happened), stealing the props (which happened repeatedly) and thwarting the patrons who inexplicably decided that the time when he’s behind the stalls doing a full costume change (note: this doesn’t happen at the Novello, don’t even try) is when they need to start roaming the auditorium in search of a loo.

There’s been a little bit of the first sort of idiocy, though. Some people are idiots who don’t seem to grasp that going to see Hamlet is not like going to see, say, Take That: if the band aren’t there, you get a refund. You’re paying to SEE A PRODUCTION OF HAMLET. You’re seeing Hamlet. The RSC has a full understudy policy, and virtually everyone understudies something (hence the slightly ridiculous matinee where Jim Hooper had hurt his back and Oliver Ford-Davies played both Polonius and the Priest, thus burying the daughter who’d killed herself because he’d died. If you follow). I definitely did not want to see Hamlet in London before now; a prosc arch? Why? And, of course, I’m a Stratford girl who’s never quite got to grips with the idea of the RSC in London. Hamlet in Stratford was my holiday romance as much as a summer job. But now, I’m intrigued – I want to see this ‘moody teenager’ Hamlet, Tom Davey as Laertes, and Rob Curtis as Lucianus, and, most of all, Ricky Champ as Guildenstern. All the same, I’m sorry for all the people who were looking forward to seeing David Tennant – I’m sorriest of all, though, for him. I can’t imagine how he must feel, apart from, you know, disappointed, embarassed and in presumably quite dreadful pain.

(And why yes, this is my first post written on WordPress as opposed to imported from Blogspot. I’m excited. Don’t know how I’ll get all the widgets to work, but looking forward to finding out).