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Wednesday, September 9, 1998 Published at 10:40 GMT 11:40 UK


The play's not the thing for Cedric

That's it, I'm off: Cedric gets stage fright

BBC News' Peter Hunt: snake misses big break
He was preparing for the biggest role of his career, playing in Shakespeare alongside Helen Mirren. Now he's caught stage-fright - and theatre staff are desperately searching for him.

Cedric the snake has not been seen for a week since he escaped from his box in offices at London's Royal National Theatre, where he was soon to star in Antony and Cleopatra.

The foot-long Californian King snake was due to appear at the end of the play, when Cleopatra - played by Ms Mirren - commits suicide by pressing a snake to her bosom to administer a fatal bite.

The Royal National Theatre's Lucinda Morrison said: "There have been calls out around the theatre and lots of notices put up but he's clearly not in the building. He must be determined not to make his debut in a National Theatre production."

[ image: Helen Mirren: Missing her co-star]
Helen Mirren: Missing her co-star
It is the second time Cedric has vanished - a cleaner found him last time, and he was put in a secure box, leading to suspicions he may have had help in his quest for freedom.

Unlike the snake Cedric was supposed to play, Californian Kings are completely harmless.

But if he is not found soon, his part will go to understudy snake Indigo, who played the asp in rehearsals.

Ms Mirren is said to be "bearing up" at the loss of her co-star, and preparing for the play's opening on October 20th.

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