An urgent investigation into the partially collapsed ceiling at the Piccadilly Theatre has been launched this morning, after audience members were injured while watching a show at the theatre.
Westminster City Council has already confirmed that its health and safety officers will be at the West End theatre today (November 7) “to start an urgent investigation into the incident”, which saw plasterboard in the rear upper circle fall in partway through a performance of Death of a Salesman.
“We’ve been in close contact with emergency services who were on the scene last night to evacuate theatre patrons and treat those injured,” a council statement added.
The Association of British Theatre Technicians has also said it would assist in trying to understand whether the ceiling involved was made from suspended fibrous plaster, as was the case in the partial collapse at the Apollo Theatre in 2013.
The body said it would help the Piccadilly’s owner Ambassador Theatre Group to “understand what type of ceiling was involved and what happened to cause the incident”, which injured five audience members.
It is not yet known whether the Piccadilly Theatre has a suspended fibrous plaster ceiling, and no details about the cause of the collapse have yet been confirmed.
A statement from ABTT said it was “very concerned to learn of the events at the Piccadilly Theatre…and our thoughts are with all those who were involved in the incident”.
The Theatres Trust, which alongside ABTT and Historic England publishes guidance on the maintenance of historic theatre ceilings, said it was also talking to theatre owners and would offer its full support.
Chief executive Jon Morgan said in a statement: “We do not know yet what caused this and it is important not to jump to conclusions until more details are known.
“In recent years theatre operators have made major investments in testing and strengthening their ceilings. The theatre industry has robust guidance around the maintenance of historic ceilings and Theatres Trust was amongst a group of organisations working with Historic England and ABTT to produce additional detailed guidance.”
Suspended fibrous plaster ceilings hang below the framework of a building and are made of timber laths and hessian, bound together with cast plaster.
An investigation into the partial ceiling collapse at the Apollo found that it occurred because of the deterioration of wadding ties that supported the suspended fibrous plaster ceiling.
All theatres that have these ceilings have been required to carry out inspections to ensure they are safe, following the Apollo incident, and the industry guidance details how employers should inspect, certify and record the condition of such ceilings within their premises.