THE show must go on, as the old adage goes – and for director Christopher Luscombe tonight’s opening of Alphabetical Order at the Hampstead Theatre will go ahead despite a last minute recasting due to injury.

Seasoned actress Annette Badland, known for her television roles in Bad Girls, Doctor Who and Cutting It, was due to star in the Michael Frayn comedy, but was forced to pull out at the 11th hour after suffering a fall last Friday night and fracturing a bone in her foot.

She has now been replaced in the final week of rehearsals by Penelope Beaumont, who has performed widely for the Royal Shakespeare Company, as well as at the Barbican, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, and more recently at Watford Palace Theatre in Ronald Harwood’s The Dresser.

“We’ve been extremely lucky in that we have a very experienced actress and she’s doing just brilliantly,” explains Christopher Luscombe. “In fact, during our rehearsals many of us have been open-mouthed in wonder at Penelope.

“She really wasn’t familiar with the play at all, so we biked the script over to her on Saturday. Then I worked with her on Sunday and by Monday morning we were all in rehearsals. She’s doing amazingly well and has a very good, methodical way of working. I’m very confident that she will be absolutely fine by the opening.”

First written in 1975, Alphabetical Order returns to Hampstead Theatre where it was originally performed, with an all-star cast featuring Imogen Stubbs, Michael Garner, Gawn Grainger, Jonathan Guy Lewis, Chloe Newsome and Ian Talbot.

The bitter-sweet comedy revolves around a provincial newspaper office in the 1970s and the chaos swirling around the cuttings library. Files are all over the floor, phones have been left ringing and Lucy the librarian has gone missing. As for all the other journalists, their lives seem just as messy and complicated as the cuttings library, but then Lesley arrives, Lucy’s new assistant. She’s young, bright and determined to bring change. But will her new order result in yet more chaos?

“It’s very delightful,” adds Christopher. “Michael Frayn said he always felt warm feelings for this play because it’s about a world that he was extremely fond of, when he was a journalist starting out. It was a very happy time in his life and that affection just comes across immensely in this play.”

He adds: “It’s wonderful to immerse yourself in this quirky world. Any keen theatregoer will surely enjoying seeing Frayn’s comedy.”

Alphabetical Order runs from tonight (Thursday, April 16) to Saturday, May 16 at Hampstead Theatre, Eton Avenue, Swiss Cottage. Details: 020 7722 9301 or