A permanent ceiling is set to be reinstated above the auditorium at the Apollo Theatre in the West End, six years after the partial collapse of the venue’s original ceiling injured 76 people.
According to a planning document submitted to Westminster City Council, the new ceiling will allow the theatre to operate at full capacity for the first time since the incident in December, 2013. The reinstatement of the replica ceiling is “considered to be of prime importance to the future of the theatre”, the document states.
The cause of the partial ceiling collapse was found to be the deterioration of wadding ties that supported the suspended fibrous ceiling. The theatre reopened in March 2014, but with the balcony level closed and a temporary ceiling “skin” installed, featuring a painted image of a night sky.
The proposed permanent replica ceiling – which will be made of reinforced fibrous plaster – has been designed in response to requirements outlined by the Association of British Theatre Technicians in 2015.
These guidelines require that suspended fibrous plaster ceilings should be inspected “as to their condition by competent plaster inspectors and structural engineers to ensure as far as reasonably practicable that the premises are safe for public occupation”.
“The safety of all occupants and visitors to any theatre is paramount. This has been the starting point for the repair and restoration of the plaster ceiling,” the document states.
It reveals that the existing structure in the void above the ceiling will be “substantially revised”, allowing “access to the new fibrous ceiling to facilitate unencumbered inspections”.
It adds: “The new structure that will support the new fibrous ceiling plasterwork will also ensure that the plaster ceiling load is distributed evenly to the retained primary roof trusses”.
The planning document states the work will make use of “like-for-like traditional methods and materials, while also providing a safe supporting structure from which to access, inspect, clean and maintain it in the future”, adding that it would be impractical simply to repair the remaining part of the ceiling, and that a replica ceiling is needed instead.
“Given the need for certainty over the structural support, the flawed nature of the plasterwork and the untenable measures necessary to undertake such work, full replica replacement is the inevitable conclusion,” the report says.
It adds that the work will “improve the Apollo’s operation as a working theatre”.
An investigation into the partial ceiling collapse at the Apollo in 2013 concluded that it occurred due to “the age of the structure”, and that “there has been no breach of the current laws”.
As such, Nimax Theatres, which owns the Apollo as well as five other West End theatres, did not face legal action.
The ABTT drew up guidance on theatre ceilings following the incident.
A decision on the planning proposals is still pending from Westminster City Council. No time frame has been confirmed for the works.