DOUBTS today surrounded whether veteran actor Brian Blessed would be appearing in a major production in the region next week.

The 67-year-old 'I, Claudius' and 'Star Wars' favourite was forced to pull out of this week's run of The Haunted Hotel at the Mercury Theatre, in Colchester, after suffering chest pains.

The show is due to open at Darlington Civic Theatre on Monday (SEP 20) and run until Saturday, September 25.

A spokeswoman for the theatre said there were doubts over whether Mr Blessed would appear, or be replaced by an understudy. "We don't have any news on whether he will be appearing at the moment," she said.

"We hope to hear from the producers midweek and will let our audiences know what is happening as soon as we can." The production is a supernatural murder drama, written by Wilkie Collins.