LONDON — It started raining plaster dust during the Saturday evening performance of “When Harry Met Sally,” prompting the swift evacuation of one of London’s most elegant venues and the cancellation of the West End play until Wednesday at the earliest.
According to Ben Chamberlain, who handles PR for the production at London’s Theater Royal, Haymarket, the performance was almost over when decorative plaster work in the ornately appointed theater began falling from the ceiling, covering some of the 750-strong audience in plaster and dust. (At capacity, the theater seats 895.)
Why did it happen? “That’s the bit no one can explain,” Chamberlain told Daily Variety. But he said early rumors were unfounded that had the theater chandelier falling four feet from the ceiling.
In a statement released Sunday, Arnold M. Crook, the theater’s chairman, said: “We are of course extremely concerned by what happened last night, and we extend our sympathy to all audience members affected.”
No one was severely hurt, although 11 members of the public were dispatched to local hospitals: All but one were treated for minor injuries and subsequently discharged. A single remaining patient was still at St. Thomas’ Hospital as of Sunday afternoon and was described as being in a “stable and not serious” condition.
The play’s cast, headed by visiting stars Luke Perry and Alyson Hannigan, was unaffected by the incident. Perry reportedly jumped down from the stage as soon as it happened to help out in the audience.
The two leads are in their final weeks in the play, which opened Feb. 20 to mixed to negative reviews. Molly Ringwald is due to take over as the ditzy Sally, the role originated onscreen by Meg Ryan.
Performances are expected to resume Wednesday, pending the all-clear from the Health & Safety Executive responsible for the venue.