Apollo Theatre Owner Cites "Benign Neglect" in Roof Collapse; Andrew Lloyd Webber Had Warned of Theatre Condition

By Adam Hetrick
23 Dec 2013

Ambulances outside the Apollo Theatre
Ambulances outside the Apollo Theatre

Torrential rains were likely the underlying cause of the Dec. 19 roof collapse at London's Apollo Theatre, which injured over 80 theatregoers attending a performance of the Olivier Award-winning play The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-time.

Nica Burns of Nimax Theatres, which owns the Apollo along with several other London theatres, stated that the water was an ongoing issue with the building that opened in 1901. "Water attacks the building from above and below," she told Theatres Magazine, adding that the building suffered from years of "benign neglect."

Burns also stated that Nimax had allocated £2.45 million to renovate its theatres, including the Apollo, but the company "had to address the damp" prior to any major work on the buildings.

The partial roof collapse occurred just after 8:15 PM GMT, following a major thunderstorm that drenched London with 15 percent of an average December's rainfall within an hour.



Read: Society of London Theatre Announces That Shows to Go on in West End After Apollo Theatre Incident; Investigation Launched

An expert told the Express that he believed rainwater seeped into the building, increasing stress on the ceiling. "This puts pressure on it – and it crumbles and collapses."

Legal experts told the Evening Standard that damages claims for the Dec. 19 performance could exceed £1 million. "If there was to be some sort of class action, it is something I would look at. This is the problem with going to public events held in century-old buildings — but you still don’t expect to be in any danger," said Dec. 19 audience member Martin Bostock, who was injured in the ceiling collapse.

Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, who sold the Apollo Theatre to Nimax in 2005, had previously commented on the theatre's deteriorating physical condition. "The Apollo in particular is a shocking place," Lloyd Webber told the Times. "I suggested that both it and the Lyric should be knocked down and replaced by top-quality modern theatres."

Westminster City Council conducted evaluations on other historic West End theatres following the Apollo collapse. "Each historic theatre is unique and we have no reason to believe this is other than an isolated incident," council cabinet member Nicola Aiken told the Daily Mail. "We have confirmed today with the Society of London Theatre that all theatres' safety checks are up to date; however, as a precaution, all historic theatres are carrying out further safety checks today."

Performances of The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-time have been canceled through Jan. 4, 2014.