Gareth Hunt

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By Jeremy Miles

Actor Gareth Hunt is "fairly comfortable" in hospital this morning after collapsing on stage.

Hundreds of theatregoers watched in a mixture of horror and disbelief last night as the star collapsed on stage during Bournemouth's new end of pier show.

Some gasped in dismay as the veteran star of TV programmes like the New Avengers and Night and Day slumped across a table, his hands twitching uncontrollably.

Others, thinking it was part of the play, started to applaud as the curtain was brought down. But the gravity of the situation became instantly apparent when fellow cast member Robert Beck came to the apron of the stage and asked: "Is there a doctor in the house?" adding: "I'm being VERY serious."

No doctor was found but some 20 first-aiders rushed forward to offer their assistance while an ambulance was called.

Later as the 59-year-old was rushed to hospital one first aider who refused to be named said: "He seemed in a bad way. We don't know what exactly is wrong with him but to me it looked like the classic symptoms of an epileptic fit."

Others spoke of the possibility of a severe panic attack or even a cardiac arrest.

Hunt was just half an hour into the second night of a six week run at the Pier Theatre of the Alan Ayckbourne comedy Absurd Person Singular when he was taken ill. The first inkling that something was wrong came when he forgot his lines and asked for a prompt. Clearly distressed he tried to carry on but suddenly cried "Oh please!" and slumped onto the table.

The show's director Alan Cohen decided to abandon the performance offering audience members a chance to exchange their tickets for future performances.

In a brief statement he announced: "Sadly Gareth Hunt has been taken ill and has been taken to hospital by ambulance. We don't know what iswrong with him but a statement will be issued tomorrow morning."

He did however say that the actor had shown no signs of ill-health during rehearsals for the show.

Later Mr Cohen said that today's matinee performance of Absurd Person Singular would be cancelled but the evening performance would go ahead with an understudy.

Mr Hunt's condition was described as "fairly comfortable" this morning by a hospital spokesman.

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Dirty Den takes up Hunt's role in show

12:00pm Tuesday 30th July 2002

FORMER EastEnders star Leslie Grantham is to take over from ailing actor Gareth Hunt in Bournemouth's end-of-the-pier show.

Grantham, best known as Dirty Den in the TV soap, agreed to step in after it became clear that 59-year-old Hunt, who was rushed to hospital after collapsing on stage at the Pier Theatre last week, would not be coming back to the production.

As Hunt continued to recuperate under medical supervision at his home in Surrey yesterday Grantham arrived in town ready to start rehearsing for the lead male role in the Alan Ayckbourn comedy Absurd Person Singular.

He will rehearse from today and take over the role from next Monday for the final five weeks of the play's summer season.

Understudy Hayward Elliott has been standing in since Hunt's illness but as he also understudies the two other male roles in the play, efforts were swiftly made to find a permanent and preferably crowd-pulling replacement.

Bournemouth's Pier Theatre will be more than familiar to Grantham who starred there for eight weeks last summer alongside Roy Hudd in Eric Chappell's comedy thriller Theft.

This year's production finds him appearing alongside a number well-known TV names, including former Coronation Street actress Amanda Barrie and a more recent EastEnders star - Carol Harrison who played Louise Raymond.

Meanwhile mystery still surrounds the nature of Gareth Hunt's illness.

After his collapse on the second night of Absurd Person Singular last Tuesday he was taken directly to the Royal Bournemouth Hospital where he spent two days undergoing tests.

He was released on Thursday night.

Rumours that he had suffered a heart attack were categorically denied by the show's director Alan Cohen.

However it is known that former New Avengers star Hunt had recently completed a gruelling work schedule, filming 240 episodes of the late-night soap Night and Day.

He had also told friends that he was uneasy about taking on what, apart from panto, was effectively his first stage role in more than four years.

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© Copyright 2001-2010 Newsquest Media Group


Grantham takes over from hopitalised  Hunt as Ayckbourn play continues

30th July 2002

FORMER EastEnders star Leslie Grantham is to take over from ailing actor Gareth Hunt in Bournemouth's end-of-the-pier show.

Grantham, best known as Dirty Den in the TV soap, agreed to step in after it became clear that 59-year-old Hunt, who was rushed to hospital after collapsing on stage at the Pier Theatre last week, would not be coming back to the production.

As Hunt continued to recuperate under medical supervision at his home in Surrey yesterday Grantham arrived in town ready to start rehearsing for the lead male role in the Alan Ayckbourn comedy Absurd Person Singular.

He will rehearse from today and take over the role from next Monday for the final five weeks of the play's summer season.

Understudy Hayward Elliott has been standing in since Hunt's illness but as he also understudies the two other male roles in the play, efforts were swiftly made to find a permanent and preferably crowd-pulling replacement.

Bournemouth's Pier Theatre will be more than familiar to Grantham who starred there for eight weeks last summer alongside Roy Hudd in Eric Chappell's comedy thriller Theft.

This year's production finds him appearing alongside a number well-known TV names, including former Coronation Street actress Amanda Barrie and a more recent EastEnders star - Carol Harrison who played Louise Raymond.

Meanwhile mystery still surrounds the nature of Gareth Hunt's illness.

After his collapse on the second night of Absurd Person Singular last Tuesday he was taken directly to the Royal Bournemouth Hospital where he spent two days undergoing tests.

He was released on Thursday night.

Rumours that he had suffered a heart attack were categorically denied by the show's director Alan Cohen.

However it is known that former New Avengers star Hunt had recently completed a gruelling work schedule, filming 240 episodes of the late-night soap Night and Day.

He had also told friends that he was uneasy about taking on what, apart from panto, was effectively his first stage role in more than four years.


Hunt faces the fear as he returns to Pier 

Thursday 2nd September 2004

STAGE and TV favourite Gareth Hunt is back at Bournemouth's Pier Theatre for the first time since he was taken ill and collapsed on stage midway through a production there two years ago.

The one-time star of The New Avengers, who is playing lawyer Philip Harrison in the Francis Durbridge crime thriller The Gentle Hook, admits that getting back on the Pier stage has been a nerve-racking experience.

"If it was any other theatre it wouldn't be so bad but because it's the same place...

"It's like being on the top board and making a dive when your last one was a belly flop."

But Hunt says he is determined to overcome his fear.

"I had a bad experience but I've got to put it behind me," he says determinedly.

The veteran actor admits that after his illness, caused by a bad reaction to prescribed medication, he considered giving up the theatre completely

"For a while I thought 'that's it.' But you have to face the challenge."

That challenge, he says, is more difficult at the Pier Theatre than anywhere else in the world.

For it is inextricably tied to memories of the night in 2002 when, clearly in difficulties and stumbling through his lines, Hunt made it to the end of the first act of Alan Ayckbourne's Absurd Person Singular before collapsing across a table.

A shocked and confused audience looked on in stunned disbelief as the curtain was brought hastily down and a cast member stepped forward to utter the classic line: "Is there a doctor in the house?"

The ailing actor was taken by ambulance to hospital amid initial rumours that he had suffered a heart attack.

His role in the play was taken over first by an understudy and then by EastEnders star Leslie Grantham.

Hunt, who suffered the indiginity of being delivered to A&E wearing a cheap 1970s style brown suit and full stage make-up (including a dodgy moustache) says he is anxious to move on from the ordeal.

But he does have another hospital story to tell of an occasion when an accident on a TV set saw him arriving in casualty in even more bizarre garb.

It happened midway through shooting a children's adventure series, an explosive charge being used for special effects accidentally went off in his face.

"It was awful. I actually thought I'd lost the sight of one eye," recalls Hunt.

"When they took me to hospital I was wearing a balaclava and my face was all blacked-up for the part.

"I was lying there terrified that I'd been blinded and this nurse started cleaning the make-up off my face.

Suddenly she beamed at me and said "Oh, it's you! Can I have your autograph?"

The Gentle Hook is at the Pavilion Theatre in Bournemouth until Saturday, September 18. Telephone 0870 111 3000.



Gareth Hunt dies 

14th March 2007

By Jeremy Miles

ACTOR Gareth Hunt, who has died at the age of 65 from pancreatic cancer, had fought illness for several years.

Hunt, best known as star of TV's The New Avengers, made headlines back in 2002 when he collapsed on stage at the Pier Theatre in Bournemouth midway through a performance of the Alan Ayckbourn play Absurd Person Singular.

He was treated for several days in the Royal Bournemouth Hospital while EastEnders actor Leslie Grantham was called in to take over his role for the rest of the summer run on the pier At the time it was said that he had suffered an adverse reaction to medication prescribed following heart surgery.

Yesterday his agent revealed that he had died of pancreatic cancer.

He issued a statement that said: "He fought the disease with great courage and through his strength of character and his wonderful sense of humour he continued to work right up until the end of 2006."

Hunt was last seen in Bournemouth in 2004 when he returned to the Pier Theatre to star in the Francis Durbridge thriller The Gentle Hook.

At the time he said: " I had a bad experience here but I was determined to make the effort to return. It's like diving off the top board and doing a belly-flop. You have to go back and try again."

© Jeremy Miles 2017