Laurence Olivier Award-winning actor Con O’Neill is to step into the role of Kenneth Halliwell in Simon Bent’s Prick Up Your Ears at the Comedy theatre from 22 October following the withdrawal of Matt Lucas.
Lucas, who opened in the role on 30 September, left the production following the death of his former civil partner Kevin McGee, who was found hanged in his Edinburgh flat on 5 October.
Prick Up Your Ears is a dramatisation of the events that led up to the death of notorious British playwright Joe Orton, who was murdered in 1967 by his lover Halliwell, who then committed suicide.
A statement issued on behalf of the producers of the play said: “We are thrilled that Con O’Neill, an actor of such significance, is available to take on the role of Kenneth Halliwell at such short notice in our production of Prick Up Your Ears. Given the sad news that Matt Lucas has recently received, and the role he was playing, it is understandable that he could not return to play Halliwell at this time and our thoughts are with him. On-going support for our production from audiences at the Comedy theatre over the past week has been wonderful and given the huge investment from our cast, director, writer and production team, we are delighted that the brilliant Con O’Neill is joining our company so that the show that we are so proud of can complete its West End run.”
O’Neill’s recent stage credits include Faces In The Crowd at the Royal Court, The Female Of The Species at the Vaudeville theatre and The Caretaker at the Tricycle theatre. He won a Laurence Olivier Award in 1988 for Blood Brothers and was nominated again in 2006 for Telstar at the New Ambassadors theatre. Nick Moran’s play was made into a film earlier this year, in which O’Neill also starred.
Lucas’s understudy Michael Chadwick will continue to play Halliwell until O’Neill takes over on 22 October. He will star in the Daniel Kramer-directed production alongside Chris New as Orton and Gwen Taylor as the couple’s neighbour Mrs Corden.