Michael Gambon has been forced to withdraw from the upcoming National Theatre premiere of Alan Bennett’s new play The Habit Of Art. He will be replaced by Richard Griffiths.
A statement released by the National Theatre confirms that Gambon has left the production due to minor ill health, but that the change of cast will not affect the new play’s eagerly awaited opening, which will go ahead as planned on 17 November.
Speaking about the change, Nicholas Hytner, the National Theatre’s Director, who is also directing The Habit Of Art, commented: “We’re all extremely sorry that Michael Gambon has had to withdraw from The Habit Of Art but Alan Bennett and I couldn’t be more grateful to our old friend Richard Griffiths for agreeing to take on this considerable challenge at such short notice.
“The Habit Of Art is about the business of putting a play together as much as it is about making music or poetry. Richard Griffiths will play the actor, Fitz, who plays the poet W H Auden in a play set in a rehearsal room as a group of actors work through a play about Auden and Benjamin Britten. We’re looking forward to taking creative advantage of this unexpected twist in our own rehearsal process.”
The move reunites Griffiths with actress Frances De La Tour, who appeared alongside him in Bennett’s last National Theatre success, The History Boys, when it premiered in 2004. Griffiths went on to win the Laurence Olivier Award for his performance.
More recently, Griffiths starred opposite Daniel Radcliffe in Equus both in the West End and on Broadway. His screen credits include the Harry Potter films, in which he plays Vernon Dursley, Bleak House, Sleepy Hollow and Pie In The Sky.
Griffiths joins a cast which also includes Alex Jennings, Adrian Scarborough, Stephen Wight, Danny Burns, Martin Chamberlain, Philip Childs, John Heffernan, Barbara Kirby and Elliot Levey.