BBC EastEnders legend ‘gutted’ as they’re forced to pull out of panto hours before going on stage

EastEnders legend Shona McGarty was forced to pull out of a highly anticipated panto performance this week, after the much loved actress was struck down by an unexpected illness.

The soap star, who is best known to fans for playing Whitney Dean in the BBC soap, was sadly forced to miss her performance in Beauty and the Beast at Dartford’s Orchard theatre on Friday 15 December, with Shona also expected to miss out on Saturday’s performance too.

The “gutted” star was heartbroken to relay the news to fans on social media, as she admitted she had been struggling with a bug for the past few days.

Posting on Instagram, Shona wrote: "Guys…I've been feeling rough recently, as you know, and unfortunately have come down with the worst cold n flu symptoms and a really sore throat!

"I did today's show, and got through it, but it was tough. It's such horrid timing to be ill. Typical! During a panto run! Gutted!"

The star even went on to apologise to fans that had been hoping to come and see her perform, as she admitted she was simply too ill to continue in the role until the illness had passed.

"I'm so so sorry to anyone who's coming to panto to see me specifically tonight, but I've had to bow out of tonight's performance and possibly tomorrow's too.”

Although the news was understandably bleak for fans that had purchased a ticket, Shona did reveal there was some hope on the horizon as she explained she was already on medication and hoping it helped to speed her way towards recovery.

Shona continued: ”I've got antibiotics and lots of meds! I am going to dose myself up, and get better! I am determined to get back up there, and sing my heart out again soon!”

While Shona is too poorly to perform, the role of Belle will be undertaken by her understudy Laura in her absence, a talented actress that Shona assured fans was more than up to the challenge.

"She's absolutely fabulous," she promised fans.

The pantomime performance marks Shona’s first gig away from Walford since it was announced earlier this year that she would be leaving the soap in 2024.

Shona previously spoke about her decision to leave the show, admitting it wasn't easy. "It wasn't an easy decision because I've made so many friends." she told Inside Soap.

"I've seen people come and go, and meanwhile, Whitney has been one of the longest-standing characters. I've had so much fun and done so many storylines, some of which have been sensitive, and I've been honoured to be trusted with such heavy stuff year after year. So I'm going to be sad to say goodbye to my friends and family, but it was the right decision for me as I want to do other things."

In another chat, she looked back on her EastEnders journey and shared her real thoughts about her co-stars.

She revealed to The Sun: "I have decided to spread my wings and will be leaving EastEnders. I have loved my years in the show. I have been trusted with some incredible storylines and have made amazing friendships – and family – which will endure."

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