Andrew Lloyd Webber had feared London theatre collapse

Last Updated: Saturday, December 21, 2013 - 19:35

London: Famous musical director Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber had warned over a decade ago that the Apollo Theatre in the heart of the British capital was in a "shocking" condition.
The ceiling of the 112-year-old theatre in West End theatre district caved in on Thursday night during an ongoing performance of a play that left 76 people injured.

Emergency services believe the collapse was a result of an abnormally heavy downpour swamping the roof.

Lord Lloyd-Webber, behind the A R Rahman popular stage show `Bombay Dreams`, is one of Britain`s biggest theatre operators and his Really Useful Group owns six of the city`s major venues.

In 2000, he had told `The Times` that he had applied to demolish the heritage theatre when he owned it between 2000 and 2005.

"The Apollo in particular is a shocking place. I suggested that both it and the Lyric should be knocked down and replaced by top-quality modern theatres," he had said.

But it was rejected on ground of its ornate plaster-work and he then sold the building to Nimax Theatres, which owns it now.

English Heritage had listed the theatre in 1972 citing its "richly ornamental shallow domed ceiling on pendentives".

"All the major theatre owners have confirmed that their safety inspections and certificates are up to date, and will cooperate fully with the authorities to reassure the public that their theatres are safe," a spokesperson for the Society of London Theatre said.

Safety checks were carried out on all 52 historic theatres in London yesterday following the injuries at the Apollo, which was packed with 720 people during a performance of `The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time`.

Investigations are focusing on the condition of the roof after members of the audience reported water dripping from the ceiling before a section of ornate plaster and masonry covering 10 square metres collapsed.

Westminster City Council said it may review its policy of surveying old buildings` roofs every three years.

The collapse has highlighted concerns about the condition of London`s older theatres.

A survey by the Theatres Trust in 2003 suggested that 40 per cent of West End venues were "in need of major structural or architectural restoration", although work has since been carried out on some.

Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, stressed: "London`s world renowned theatre land is open for business."

Performances of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time based on the novel by the same name by Mark Haddon have been cancelled until January 4.

PTI
First Published: Saturday, December 21, 2013 - 19:35
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