British thespian Brian Blessed has been forced to withdraw from a production of Shakespeare's King Lear after collapsing onstage during a performance last week (19Jan15).

The 78-year-old Flash Gordon star fainted and fell off a raised platform, prompting co-star Noel White to ask for the services of a doctor among the audience at the Holy Trinity Church in Guildford, England.

Blessed, who underwent a heart operation three years ago, returned to the stage to complete the show after a brief interlude, but now his doctors have advised him not to continue, telling the actor his heart condition is "more serious that he was aware".

A spokesman for the play says, "On the advice of his specialist, and with a broken heart, Brian has therefore been compelled to withdraw from the production of which he is so proud.

"He is immensely grateful for the support he has received from The Guildford Shakespeare Company. Mr Blessed will be making no further comment at this time."

Actor Terence Wilton will replace Blessed in the show, which runs until 17 February (15).