Preston student returns to the stage three years after cardiac arrest during university show

Posted on - 29th May, 2021 - 8:00pm | Author - | Posted in - Arts, City Centre, Education, Health, People, Preston City Centre, Preston News, UCLan, What's On in Preston
Gary Tatham

When the University of Central Lancashire’s (UCLan) live theatre performances return next week, it will be an extra special moment for one standout actor.


For Gary Tatham, it is the chance to finish what he started three years ago after a cardiac arrest put paid to his performance in his final year show.

In February 2018, the actor’s heart suddenly stopped beating while he was backstage at a performance of Clybourne Park.

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His castmates, director, the UCLan Security Team and three ambulance crews worked to keep him alive for 40 minutes until he was stable enough to transfer to the Royal Preston Hospital.

Hospital tests showed Gary had Wolff-Parkinson White syndrome, a congenital condition which causes electrical problems with the heart. He fully recovered from heart catheter ablation surgery and is now working as a professional actor, based in London and Bedford.

But the UCLan graduate answered the call for help with the upcoming performance of Angels in America, which runs from 2 June to 5 June at Preston Playhouse.

Gary Tatham in his hospital bed

The 25-year-old said: “I was in hospital and then at home recuperating after my cardiac arrest so unfortunately I missed out on the opportunity to finish my third-year show.

“That was hugely disappointing at the time for me, all the cast and Terence Chapman so when I heard UCLan needed a black male actor for the first show back after the pandemic, I jumped at the chance!

“I was delighted I could return, and I feel like the sadness of 2018 is finally starting to fade away three years down the line. I feel like I’ve been yearning for this closure for a very long time.”

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Terence Chapman, BA (Hons) Acting Course Leader, said: “We are marking the re-opening of the theatre with a play called Angels in America.  The production features a black male character and in the current third year there are no black male actors, so I contacted Gary and he very kindly agreed to play the role.

“He had such a difficult end to his time as one of our students, nobody could have predicted what happened to him, and thankfully he’s made it through and is here to tell the tale. I felt like it was destiny for Gary to be available and it’s wonderful to know he and the other students will be able to perform to live audiences after the industry was severely affected by the enforced closures.”

Whats on in your area can be seen below

Angels in America, which is the first of three live theatre events being performed by UCLan students this summer, runs from 2 to 5 June at Preston Playhouse with daily performances at 2.00pm and 7.30pm. Tickets are priced at £12 standard and £6 concessions (students and senior citizens) and can be purchased at here.

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