Downton dramas: Maggie Smith heart scare, Lady Edith heckled
Dame Maggie taken to hospital, while Sir Peter Hall upstages Laura Carmichael on West End debut
DOWNTON ABBEY matriarch Dame Maggie Smith might not feature in the fourth series of the award-winning show after she suffered a heart scare on Friday, while one of her co-stars, Laura Carmichael, suffered the indignity of being heckled on her West End debut as she appeared in a new production of Uncle Vanya.
Dame Maggie, who plays Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess of Grantham, was taken to a specialist cardiac unit after suffering severe chest pains. The Sunday Mirror says she underwent emergency tests at the private Wellington Hospital on Friday. She was discharged the same day after her condition was stabilised by medics.
"The health scare will add to fears that she will not return for the show's fourth series," reports the Mirror. "She will have to consider advice from doctors before deciding whether she should sign up to the next series following the climax of the third season tonight."
Dame Maggie, 77, who won an Emmy for her role in the popular ITV drama in September, has previously overcome breast cancer.
Another Downton Abbey favourite, Laura Carmichael, who plays Smith's grand daughter Lady Edith in the show, also endured a scare on Friday, when she was heckled on the first night of a new West End production of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya by theatre "colossus" Sir Peter Hall.
Carmichael was delivering the final lines of the play, which also stars Anna Friel and Ken Stott, when, according to The Sunday Telegraph, Hall interrupted. "Stop, stop, stop," he cried. "It doesn't work and you don't work. It's not good enough. I could be at home watching television."
The outburst did not go unnoticed by the critics. Michael Billington of The Guardian wrote that the first night had been "all but ruined... by some disturbance in the auditorium".
The Telegraph says Hall's interruption has become the "talk of theatreland", and opinion seems to be split on whether it was a deliberate heckle.
One eyewitness said he was "muttering loudly" rather than heckling, although others accused the 82-year-old of rudeness.
The former director of the National Theatre, who has twice overseen productions of Uncle Vanya, appeared to have changed his mind about the play when approached by the Telegraph afterwards.
Hall told the paper: "I thought it was a simply marvellous evening, a fine production with a superb company of actors." ·