Veteran theatre and film director Sir Peter Hall has issued a statement apologising for his behaviour during the opening night of Downton Abbey actress Laura Carmichael's West End debut in Uncle Vanya.
Reports over the weekend had suggested that the founder of the Royal Shakespeare Company had "heckled" the actors during Carmichael's closing speech in the Chekhov play at the Vaudeville Theatre.
But the 81-year-old has made clear in his statement that any disruption he caused was not purposeful:
"I am mortified that I unintentionally disrupted the final scene of Uncle Vanya and I have sent a personal note to Laura Carmichael offering my apologies.
"I enjoyed the evening, and her performance, immensely, and I cannot stress too strongly that my remarks were in no way directed at her or the production. Being rather aged I dropped off for a moment and on being woken by my wife I was briefly disorientated.
"Remarks made in the resulting confusion were not in any way related to Uncle Vanya, which I think is a very fine production with a marvellous company of actors."
Carmichael - who plays Sonya in the Chekhov classic alongside Ken Stott, Anna Friel and Samuel West - is said to have continued to deliver her emotional final lines despite Hall's interruption, in front of an audience that included her Downton Abbey co-stars Phyllis Logan, Joanne Froggatt and Amy Nuttall.
Theatre owner Nica Burns added, "I was delighted that Peter Hall and a host of great actors - Idris Elba, Rhys Ifans and stars from Downton Abbey - attended the opening night of Uncle Vanya. I left the auditorium with Sir Peter and Lady Hall and he was applauding enthusiastically and shouting 'Bravo!' He clearly had a great evening."