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Theatres in Hampstead and Highgate reassure visitors after Apollo Theatre ceiling collapse

John Plews of Upstairs at the Gatehouse Theatre, Highgate. Picture: Nigel Sutton John Plews of Upstairs at the Gatehouse Theatre, Highgate. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Friday, December 20, 2013
5:49 PM

Theatres in Hampstead and Highgate have sought to reassure visitors that their buildings are safe following the collapse of a West End playhouse’s ceiling last night.

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One Highgate director spoke of his shock after 76 people were injured when plaster fell onto the audience at the Apollo Theatre, which is co-owned by Hampstead-based theatre impresario Nica Burns OBE.

John Plews, artistic director of Upstairs at the Gatehouse, said he felt sorry for those caught up in yesterday’s accident, adding: “You don’t expect things to fall on your head while you’re watching a theatre show.

“I think it was a big shock to everyone and when it happens in your own industry it’s even more of a shock.

“I’ve sat in that theatre many times. I think it brings to all our attention that most Western theatres are old buildings and I suspect they all need looking at for health and safety.

“I think it would be very sad if the public on the whole was put off by one incident and I’m sure that the theatre owners will do their utmost to rectify the problem.”

Mr Plews said his fringe venue’s ceiling was checked just five weeks ago after a new air conditioning and heating system was fitted.

The lighting grid was also strengthened three years ago.

“I think quite a few theatres have had to strengthen their hanging facilities,” he said.

“A lot of the lighting equipment is bigger and heavier than it was.”

Hampstead Theatre said its purpose-built premises in Eton Avenue, Swiss Cottage, which opened in 2003, are subject to frequent inspections.

A spokesman for the theatre said: “All theatres including Hampstead Theatre operate under strict health and safety guidelines and are regularly inspected, as the public safety is paramount.

“Everyone at Hampstead Theatre sends their sympathy to those who were injured or affected by last night’s unfortunate incident at the Apollo Theatre.”

Seven people were said to seriously injured when part of the ceiling collapsed at the Apollo Theatre during a performance of The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time at around 8.15pm, although none of their conditions are life-threatening.

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