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What does the Piccadilly ceiling collapse mean for London theatre?

“Don’t clap too onerous: it’s an overly outdated development,” says Archie Rice in John Osborne’s The Entertainer. His phrases gain an ominous ring within the gentle of this week’s incident at London’s Piccadilly theatre and an much more horrific case six years in the past on the Apollo.

Osborne was once suggesting decaying track corridor was once an apt metaphor for a declining post-Suez Britain. Do the incidents on the Piccadilly and the Apollo be offering an similarly potent signal that the supposedly glittering West Finish theatre is inwardly crumbling?

Everybody I’ve spoken to, together with a theatre dressmaker and a senior technician, is raring to minimize the theory. They insist that it’s fallacious to attract parallels between the 2 most up-to-date failures. For a get started, there’s a distinction in scale. On the Piccadilly on Wednesday night time, all over a efficiency of Demise Of A Salesman, six other folks had been handled for accidents, 4 of whom had been taken to medical institution. On the Apollo in 2013, in the course of The Curious Incident of the Canine within the Evening-Time, 76 other folks had been handled, 58 of whom had been taken to medical institution. “The miracle is that what came about on the Apollo wasn’t infinitely worse,” stated one technician.

I used to be additionally again and again informed that there was once a distinction in type between the 2 incidents.

So far as we all know, the incident on the Piccadilly (inbuilt 1928) was once led to by way of collapsing plasterboard. What took place on the Apollo (inbuilt 1901) concerned a fibrous plaster ceiling: one usually “composed of fabrics vulnerable to harm from water ingress, vibration, have an effect on, overload and age”. I take the ones phrases from detailed recommendation to theatre-owners by way of the Affiliation of British Theatre Technicians, revealed within the wake of the Apollo crisis and which you’ll in finding on their web page underneath Steering Word 20.

The Apollo, other folks inform me, was once “a warning sign” for the entire of London theatre. However has it actually woken theatre-owners as much as their responsibility to give protection to employees and the general public? In some circumstances, sure. The only proprietor I do know slightly smartly is Cameron Waterproof coat, who has 8 West Finish theatres, has seemingly invested £200m in his homes and takes a fastidious passion in each and every side of them.

“I like outdated structures,” he as soon as informed me. “If I hadn’t been a theatre manufacturer, I’d had been an interfering architect.” On the time, he was once obsessive about the re-opened Victoria Palace and, on any other instance, proudly confirmed me the enhanced women’ bathrooms on the Noel Coward. Andrew Lloyd Webber, who owns seven theatres, is recently spending £45m on a renovation of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane which brings the overall he has invested in his theatres within the remaining decade to £100m.

All that is comforting. However large questions nonetheless stay. The obvious is what in fact came about on the Piccadilly on Wednesday night time and whether or not it has any reference to the truth that the world across the theatre is boarded up. I used to be additionally reminded that whilst London’s major theatre-owners – now not best Waterproof coat and Lloyd Webber however ATG, who personal 10 theatres together with the Piccadilly and Nimax, who personal six together with the Apollo – have critical cash to spend on their West Finish homes, there could also be not anything like this funding within the large Victorian traveling theatres. Is there any signal that the warning call has prolonged to the areas?

What in point of fact staggers me, then again, is that nobody is status as much as discuss for the West Finish theatre to provide the general public knowledge and reassurance. The picture of the London theatre has been badly sullied by way of the incidents on the Piccadilly and the Apollo. If you’re making sufficient enquiries, other folks will let you know that courses had been realized from the crisis six years in the past. However how would the general public know? What ensure do they have got, once they purchase a dear price tag, that their protection is a part of the contract? Why are there no indications of the way frequently, and on what dates, inspections of the structures had been performed? How do they know the place the cash from the Recovery Levy, now integrated in the cost of a price tag, is being spent?

The Society of London Theatre, which represents the manufacturers and executives, has up to now remained grimly silent in this week’s occasions. No figurehead has emerged to let us know that radical enhancements had been made to fibrous plaster ceilings and that you’re not taking undue chance while you purchase a theatre price tag. London theatre likes to slap itself at the again and let us know how glorious it’s, as we will without doubt see on the Night Usual Theatre Awards in two weeks’ time. What we want is much less gush and extra grit, much less huckstering and extra onerous truth, if the general public isn’t to suppose night time out within the West Finish is a possible danger to existence and limb.

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