Exclusive: Damian Lewis's ear almost ruined his opening night

Damian Lewis has revealed he thought he was going to faint on stage during the opening night of his new West End play, The Goat.

The Homeland and Billions star, who had been feeling ill for days, was taken to an emergency doctor hours before the show to discover he had a perforated ear drum.

“There was this awful cold that was passed around the company in the last four or five weeks and I held out until about four days ago,” the actor told the BBC on Wednesday night.

“I had this awful streaming cold. The catarrh all transferred into my ear,” he said.

“I went to an emergency doctor at about three o’clock and he had a look in there and said ‘you’ve got a great big hole in your ear drum and you’ve got an infection of the middle ear’.”

But Lewis, who was worried the infection might affect his balance, decided the show must go on.

“There was one point in act three where I had to hold on to a chair because I was going to pass out,” he said.

Not that anyone would have guessed – the reviews for The Goat have been mainly positive, with The Guardian awarding five stars.

The play, written by the late Edward Albee and directed by Ian Rickson, tells the bizarre story of 50-year-old married architect Martin, who has an affair with a goat.

Sophie Okonedo plays Martin’s wife Stevie, who is understandably none too impressed her husband is professing his love for a farmyard animal.

The actress admitted after the show that she’d given Lewis the cold.

“He caught it from me,” she said. “I had it all last week and I lost my voice completely on the first night. I was croaking all the way through. He was really ill tonight, poor thing.”

Okonedo described The Goat as an “extraordinary modern transgressive piece” about different types of love.

“I found it really shocking when I read it. It left me breathless. And it’s really hard to be shocked in the theatre these days. I thought I had to do it because I had such a strong reaction to it.”

Lewis said he felt that now was a good time to revive the play in London.

“We feel more uncertainty and absurdity in our politics at the moment – both here and in the US – and this is a play where something drops out of the blue sky,” he said.

“It’s utterly shocking, it’s unexpected, and it causes great uncertainty and not a little trauma. And it feels a little bit like what we’re experiencing now. I think we’re all feeling a bit battered at the moment.”

But not perhaps as battered as Damian’s ear drum.

The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? is at the Theatre Royal Haymarket until 24 June.


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