London Mayor Boris Johnson has said the West End is “open for business” as an investigation continues into what caused a theatre ceiling to collapse, injuring 80 people.
Safety experts are checking the capital’s theatres after around 10 square metres of plaster from the Grade II-listed Apollo Theatre fell onto the stalls below, dragging a section of the balcony with it, striking members of the audience and filling the theatre with clouds of thick dust.
More than 700 people were inside the Apollo – which was 45 minutes into Thursday’s evening performance of The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-time – when members of the audience started rushing to the exits.
Some of the injured were taken to hospital on board London buses as the emergency services dealt with the incident in Shaftesbury Avenue in the heart of the capital. Most were discharged shortly afterwards, having been mainly treated for cuts and bruises, but seven people were more seriously hurt.
Mr Johnson said the response had been “exemplary”, adding: “I would stress that, although it is too early to say what caused this collapse, and whilst this was a serious incident, London’s world-renowned Theatreland is open for business and thousands of theatre-goers will rightly be out and about tonight and over the weekend.”
Nicola Aiken, the council’s cabinet member for community protection, confirmed the Apollo’s health and safety checks were “up to date” but said as a “precaution” all historic theatres were carrying out safety checks.
She said she could not “speculate” on how long the investigation would take and added that council staff would leave “no stone unturned” in investigating the cause. One line of inquiry will be the effect of adverse weather on the 100-year-old building after an unusually high concentration of rain, hail and lightning strikes in London between 7pm and 9pm Thursday.
A spokeswoman for Apollo owner Nimax Theatres said performances had been cancelled until Saturday, January 4. Customers should contact their point of purchase to arrange exchanges or refunds.