Following the Apollo accident a general inspection has been ordered of all London’s historic theatres.
Annual safety inspections failed to spot the problem at the Apollo, and most of the great playhouses are Victorian or Edwardian; no-one knows how much their repair and renovation might cost. Some have seen better days. Investment is long overdue.
“It could have been a lot worse, there were 720 people in the auditorium at the time and a large area of the ceiling has come down, so potentially it could have been far more serious,” said the London Fire Brigade’s Nick Harding.
The accident is not the best advert for an industry serving 2.7 million theatregoers annually, generating 3.5 billion euros profits. 10 years ago the government promised 250 million pounds for improvements. Where has it gone?
“In terms of have they been upgraded to modern standards, has the 250 million been ploughed into them? No it hasn’t. Some money has been by the theatre owners but it was always envisaged when that report was published that the government would put money towards it and they haven’t,” says the deputy editor of Stage magazine Alistair Smith.
Another accident like this would be the final curtain for a while, not a prospect London’s theatreland relishes. Seven people were seriously injured, but this time no lives were lost. Next time might not be so lucky.