Veteran British actor Brian Blessed collapsed during a performance of King Lear on Monday (19Jan15) but returned to the stage to finish the Shakespeare play after a 20-minute rest.

The 78 year old had just begun his performance as the title character when he fainted and fell off a raised platform. His co-star Noel White announced, "Ladies and gentlemen, this is not part of the play. Is there a doctor in the house?" as Blessed's daughter Rosalind, who is also starring in the production, rushed to her father's side.

A surgeon in the audience tended to Blessed, who was escorted offstage, and to the audience's surprise he returned to continue his performance 20 minutes later, telling the crowd, "I feel such an idiot and I am not in the habit of doing this, but I have a little fibrillation (irregular heartbeat)."

Blessed managed to finish the show at the Holy Trinity Church in Guildford, England but occasionally clutched his chest and rolled his eyes during his performance, according to Britain's Daily Mail newspaper.

Director Caroline Devlin said afterwards, "Brian was an inspirational wonder. He had a small heart operation three years ago... We are not entirely sure why he became so dizzy but he is a 20 year old in a 78 year old's body. There was no stopping him."