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Transsexual former MP Georgina Beyer has quit the Fortune Theatre production 6 Dance Lessons in 6 Weeks two days before it was due to open in Dunedin.

It is the first time a production has been cancelled at the Fortune Theatre.

Ms Beyer said yesterday she had made the decision to leave the play after realising "I bit off more than I could chew".

The play was scheduled to open tonight and run until March 7.

"It's a massive disappointment. I feel terribly disappointed for the Fortune Theatre and for the Dunedin public. But, in my view, it would have been irresponsible to put it on," she said.

Ms Beyer gave her decision to the theatre management after rehearsals on Wednesday afternoon.

"I just felt that I couldn't put my co-star Douglas Kamo in danger and put on a production that could be slammed by the critics," she said.

"It was a massive role. I wasn't going too badly at the start, but I just couldn't anchor the script in my head. I kept blowing my lines."

The Fortune Theatre announced earlier this week that an international theatre company had taken an option on the play.

The theatre said Ms Beyer's involvement had made 6 Dance Lessons in 6 Weeks "the hottest property in New Zealand".

That interest had added to the pressure, Ms Beyer said yesterday.

"It's been a very heavy couple of weeks and a bit of a wake-up call for me, really. I haven't acted professionally for many years and didn't have all the tools that I required."

The play, directed by Hilary Norris, had been in rehearsals for the past month. However, preparations were interrupted last week when Ms Beyer had to travel to Wellington to deliver her valedictory speech.

"The whole of the cast really bent over backwards to help me. Douglas came up to Wellington with me last week for my Parliament-leaving speech so we could go over our lines together."

Ms Beyer was previously a professional actor as both a male and a female, appearing on television programmes Close to Home, Shortland Street and Shark in the Park. She had a sex change operation in 1984.

Ms Beyer left Dunedin yesterday morning to drive back to her home in Carterton.

"When I come out of my daze I'll reassess things," she said.

"I'm hoping to come back to Dunedin later in the year to do a non-scripted, anecdotal play for the Fortune based on my life."

The decision to cancel the production followed a series of meetings, Fortune Theatre manager Janice Marthen said yesterday.

"Georgina was really struggling with her lines. It's one thing to stand in front of Parliament, but it's another thing altogether to be performing in front of an audience in a two-person play," Mrs Marthen said.

"It's a huge disappointment to Georgina, her co-star Douglas Kamo, director Hilary Norris and everyone involved in the production, but a decision had to be taken after it became clear that the performance would not reach the standards expected by everyone involved."

Mrs Marthen was unable to say how much the cancellation would cost the theatre.

- OTAGO DAILY TIMES