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Wednesday, 24 July, 2002, 16:16 GMT 17:16 UK
Hunt 'comfortable' after stage collapse
Gareth Hunt and Steve McFadden
Gareth Hunt played a gangland villain in EastEnders
Leading character actor Gareth Hunt is recovering in hospital after collapsing on stage in Bournemouth.

The 59-year-old performer was taken ill 20 minutes into the first night of the Alan Ayckbourn play Absurd Person Singular at the Dorset town's End Of The Pier Theatre.

The actor stumbled over his lines and fell into a chair, before falling to the floor.

Hunt, who rose to fame as Mike Gambit in the 1970s TV drama The New Avengers, is said to be comfortable in hospital.

Theatre spokesman Tony Hardman told BBC News Online: "We thought at first there was the possibility of a serious problem such as a heart attack or stroke but this has since been proved otherwise.

"Gareth is under observation in hospital until further notice. We very much hope he gets well soon."

Health problems

A spokesman for the performer added: "The news from the hospital is better and Gareth is comfortable. But we have no indication when he is coming out of hospital."

The show, which also stars Coronation Street and Carry On actress Amanda Barrie, resumes on Thursday night with an understudy in Hunt's place.

Hunt, who is also known for his advertisements for coffee, has suffered from health problems in recent years.

He had to withdraw from a show in Windsor a decade ago when he collapsed from exhaustion, and he suffered from a heart attack in 1999.

Recently he starred in EastEnders as a villain, and he can be seen in ITV1's cult soap opera Night And Day.


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