Apollo owner: 'Theatre suffered years of neglect'

The owner of the Apollo Theatre, where a ceiling collapsed on to the audience, claimed last year that the venue had "suffered years of benign neglect".

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Andrew Lloyd Webber: I said it should be knocked down

The Apollo Theatre's previous owner Andrew Lloyd Webber warned that the building was in a "shocking" state 10 years ago. Credit: PA

In 2000, Lord Lloyd-Webber, who sold the Apollo to Nimax in 2005, told The Times: "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 complained that his plans for black-box auditorium inside the existing plasterwork had been opposed by English Heritage.

When it listed the building in 1972, the public body cited the Apollo's "richly ornamental shallow domed ceiling" as one of its features.

One of the lines of inquiry being considered is that excess water during a torrential downpour may have caused the collapse, after forecasters confirmed there was an abnormally high concentration of rain, hail and lightning in London on the night of the collapse.

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Apollo Theatre handed back to owners following checks

Initial safety checks at a West End theatre where a ceiling collapsed onto members of the audience have concluded and the venue has been handed back to its owner, Nimax Theatres.

London's Apollo Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue has been handed back to its owner. Credit: PA

Nimax Theatres said that it is continuing to assist the authorities as they investigate why around 10 square metres of plaster from the Grade II-listed Apollo Theatre plummeted on to the stalls below, leaving 80 wounded.

A company spokeswoman said: "The relevant authorities handed the theatre back to Nimax at 4.30pm today which meant we could commence the process of carefully recovering and logging all personal effects left in the theatre following its evacuation and subsequently return them to their owners."

Westminster City Council added: "The building is safe for our investigators to go in but we cannot confirm if it is safe to open until our investigations are concluded."

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Theatre-goer saw 'traumatised' children comforted

A writer who was at London's Apollo Theatre when the ceiling collapsed said he saw "a lot of kids traumatised, covered in dust and blood being comforted by parents".

The Independent features writer Simon Usborne told Daybreak: "There were screams, it was immediately clear something serious had happened.

"Nobody told anyone to move - everybody rose immediately and ran to the nearest exit".

London theatre ceiling collapse: Latest updates

Ceiling is 'sound' say surveyors

Surveyors say the ceiling is 'sound' Credit: Philip Toscano/PA Wire

Surveyors have said the ceiling of the Apollo Theatre is "sound" after 80 people were injured, seven of them seriously, when sections of it collapsed on the audience during a packed show.

Around 10 square metres of plaster from the Grade II-listed West End theatre plummeted on to 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 the National Theatre's performance of The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-time.

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Ambulance commander: People were lying on the floor

Audience member were lying on the floor of the Apollo Theatre when the London Ambulance crew arrived.

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Incident commander Maria Smith:“When I arrived it was dark & extremely dusty - people were lying on the floor of the theatre" (1of2) #Apollo

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“We very quickly set up a casualty clearing area in the foyer of the theatre - the walking wounded were assessed & treated there." (2of2)

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Structural assessment of theatre expected later today

Westminster City Council is expected to report on a structural assessment of London's Apollo Theatre this afternoon.

Westminster Council's cabinet member for community protection, Nicola Aiken, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "District surveyors have attended and declared that the ceiling structure is sound and only plaster fell.

Police stand outside the Apollo Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue in central London.
Police stand outside the Apollo Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue in central London. Credit: REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

"We are waiting for the police to hand over the theatre to us as we are the health and safety authority for historic theatres in Westminster.

"We will be carrying out the investigation as to why the accident happened in the first place, but that will take some time."

London theatre ceiling collapse: Latest updates

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Curious Incident actress 'very glad everyone got out'

An actress who was on stage when the ceiling collapsed at the Apollo Theatre in London said she was "very glad everyone got out".

Rakie Ayola, who plays Siobhan in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, told Wales Online: "I was on stage because we were all on stage most of the time. But the audience were the ones in danger because the ceiling above them was what came down.

Actress Rakie Ayola was playing Siobhan in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.
Actress Rakie Ayola was playing Siobhan in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Credit: Matt Crossick/PA Wire

"I was not hurt at all. I didn't have any dust on me or anything, but people came up covered in dust".

"It was as shocking as you would expect," she added.

London theatre ceiling collapse: Live updates

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Director thanks theatre staff for 'heroic efforts'

The associate director of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time has thanked the actors, crew and front of house staff at the Apollo Theatre for their "heroic efforts" after the ceiling collapsed:

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Thoughts are with the injured this morning. Huge gratitude to the all of the front of house staff, cast and crew for their heroic efforts.

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Well that was not the day I expected when I started auditions this morning...to bed.

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Thank you for all the messages. Apollo and NT staff all safe.

London theatre ceiling collapse: Latest updates

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Audience member: We felt debris falling on us

Theatre-goer Dee Kearney was watching The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time when actors from the show told the audience to "Watch out!"

Then what we felt was debris falling on us, a loud bang, and then all of a sudden there was a coat of dust that came on us.

It was a thick cloud of dust, so you couldn't actually tell what was happening. You knew it was coming from above but you didn't know what was actually happening.

– Audience member Dee Kearney

Read: Author Mark Haddon 'horrified' by theatre collapse

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