London’s Theatre Disaster

apollo threeatre‘Apollo Proves Fallible’ — our London correspondent reports

Tom Aitken

The collapse of part of the ceiling of the Apollo Theatre in London’s West End could be very bad news for the city as a whole.

 A family visit to a London West End show is for many people from London, the rest of Great Britain, America and points further afield, a tradition.

(On the night of December 19, part of the ornate ceiling of the Apollo collapsed during a performance of the ‘Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time.’ Seventy-six  theatregoers were injured,  several seriously)

The management says that the show will restart, in the Apollo, soon after the beginning of January.

It appears that the collapse of the ceiling was the result of a tremendous rain, thunder and lightning storm which hit central London that evening — 8mm fell in an hour. People who were in the audience report drips of water from above just before the collapse occurred.

Going to the West End

But, at least until now, this year has been no exception to the tradition of going to the West End for top-flight entertainment.

Ticket prices may rocket and the difficulties of getting there and home again afterwards may increase, but the gleam of the bright lights and world famous actors on stage in front of your very eyes remains irresistible.

 Such feelings, however, are not armour plated. West End theatre managers know this. I would not like to be one now.

Charm can evaporate

The age of most West End Theatre buildings is part of their charm, but that charm may evaporate very swiftly when one imagines masonry collapsing and a panic-stricken rush for the smallish doors of a packed auditorium.

As it happens the nature of these buildings may be a little more in the minds of people than usual, following a recent TV series (admittedly on a minority channel) hosted by Sir Donald Sinden.

Parents will think about the safety of their children. Americans will stop buying trans-Atlantic air tickets.

Restaurants, hotels and transport systems will feel the knock-on effects.

The rest of the country is, to some extent, fed up with and jealous about London, which is seen by many as a gorging metropolis, sucking in resources from everywhere else.

No-one can afford to live there who isn’t a millionaire. Not quite true… but you have to have bought your house decades ago and have paid off the mortgage.

 So, at the bleakest end of the spectacle, one of London’s literally show-case strengths could face virtual black-out.Building surveyors will be very busy preparing safety surveys of lots of beautiful, glamorous but OLD buildings for owners how want trade to remain wondrously good.

Will they succeed?

We don’t know.

But the theatre has always been a trade where risks are taken and the rewards of success may be huge.