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BREAKING: Ceiling Collapse at London's Apollo Theater, Dozens Wounded

By James Inverne on Dec 19, 2013 06:53 PM EST

The Apollo Theater in Shaftesbury Avenue, one of the West End's most admired and busiest venues, has suffered a disaster almost without parallel in recent Theatreland history. During a performance of the play The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, a hit show adapted from the best-selling book, part of the balcony collapsed on the audience, injuring dozens, some seriously.

Not far away, in Her Majesty's Theatre, The Phantom of the Opera famously simulates a chandelier falling on its audience every night. But the nightmare, or something close to it, has come horrifyingly true at the Apollo. The latest statistics report seven seriously injured and 81 more injured to various lesser extents.

Testimonies conflict somewhat as to whether it was the ceiling or the front of the balcony that fell, but the former seems the more likely. Fire crews and medics were there quickly--many fire engines and a reported 25 ambulances were at the scene--and have rescued all who were trapped under the debris. Witnesses told Sky News that there had been a loud creak about 40 minutes into the show, some audience members jumped up and started to make for the exits, and then came the collapse and the air was filled with dust, making it impossible to see any distance. One man who was in the audience, Simon Usborne, told Sky News, "There are a lot of people with blood on their faces." After the first cracking noise, one witness told the BBC, the actors all pointed at the ceiling with expressions of horror on their faces, and many audience members in fact thought it all part of the show for the few seconds until the masonry began to fall.

Next door's Queen's Theatre, the home of another hit show, Les Misérables, became a sanctuary and makeshift treatment center, taking in the wounded. There were so many that a London bus was even brought to take people to hospital.

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TagsLondon, Apollo Theater, West End