UK & World News

  • 21 December 2013, 12:18

Apollo Theatre Collapse: Venue 'Neglected'

The owner of the Apollo Theatre in London's West End claimed last year that the venue had "suffered years of benign neglect".

Nica Burns, co-owner and chief executive of Nimax Theatres, which runs the building in Shaftesbury Avenue, said in an interview last year that it had a budget of just 2.45m to restore its five West End playhouses.

That was funded by a 1 restoration levy on tickets at the theatres, which the company said was spent entirely on upkeep and maintenance work once VAT was paid.

Speaking to Theatres Magazine, Ms Burns said: "Before we could start on the improvements, we had to address the damp. Water attacks the building from above and below."

The restoration work carried out included new 120,000 customer toilets and a makeover for four carved stone muses on the rooftop, she told the magazine.

An investigation is under way after nearly 80 people were injured, nine seriously, when part of the theatre ceiling collapsed during a packed show.

One line of inquiry being considered is that excess water during a torrential downpour may have caused the collapse.

In 2000, previous owner Andrew Lloyd-Webber, who sold the Apollo to Nimax in 2005, told the Times newspaper: "The Apollo in particular is a shocking place.

"I suggested that both it and the Lyric should be knocked down and replaced by top-quality modern theatres."

The composer and musical theatre impresario complained that his plans for a black-box auditorium inside the existing plasterwork had been opposed by English Heritage.

More than 700 people were inside the Apollo when members of the audience started screaming as it appeared parts of the ceiling caved in.

Most of the injured were discharged shortly afterwards, having been mainly treated for cuts and bruises.

Although performances at the Apollo have been cancelled until January 4, London mayor Boris Johnson said the West End was "open for business"

Mr Johnson also praised the response from emergency services as "exemplary".

"Westminster City Council and the Society of London Theatre have assured me that all safety checks for the West End's historic theatres are up to date but, as a precaution, further checks have already started and will continue throughout the day."

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