This week, 78 year old actor Brian Blessed collapsed on stage with a suspected heart attack at the beginning of his performance of King Lear. He returned to the stage 20 minutes later, apologised for the interruption and performed the play. This got me thinking about some of those awful things that have happened on stage over the years in Theatre.
When I saw the fantastic play Constellations back in 2012 at the Duke of Yorks Theatre, a man started screaming in the balcony half way through the show. Actor Rafe Spall took the hand of his co-star Sally Hawkins and calmly walked off of the stage. An ambulance was called, the man was taken away and the show continued. The situation was dealt with perfectly but sometimes things on-stage don’t always go as planned!
Kerry Ellis famously got her Elphaba cape caught in the machine that lifts her up during Defying Gravity in Wicked in 2008, leaving her screaming for the machine to stop. She was released and returned to the stage a few minutes later to finish the song with her feel firmly on the ground.
Wicked’s Kristin Chenoweth once herniated two disks in her neck while playing Glinda in the famous hair tossing scene in Popular. She was prescribed pain killers but took the wrong dosage at her next show causing her to slur her way through on a high!
The original Elphaba Idina Menzel had a fall during the shows original run on Broadway, at the end of the show when her character is supposed to melt. Unfortunately the trap door that is supposed to slowly take her down underneath the stage to give the effect of melting malfunctioned and Idina ended up falling through the hole and under the stage and breaking several ribs.
In 2012, a Stage Manager at the Soho Theatre in London fell through an unmarked trap door, falling three metres and ending up paralysed. She was recently awarded £3.7million in damages for the accident.
Let’s not forget the tragic accident at the Apollo Theatre last year, when the roof of the auditorium collapsed during a performance of The Curious Incident of the Dog In The Night time. This made headline news and injured around 80 people.
Spider-Man turn off the dark had a major accident on Broadway in 2010 when the actor playing Spider-Man jumped off of a ledge and the cable that was supposed to hold him snapped, causing him to fall into the pit. The awful moment was caught on tape. He recovered from the incident.
The famous balcony scene in West Side Story was once an interesting performance as there was in fact no balcony on-stage due to the set breaking down. Lines like “come here”, “I can not” didn’t have quite the same effect when the two actors were in fact stood next to each other!
My favourite cougar Kim Ismay who plays Tanya in Mamma Mia, once swung a hair dryer around by its cable mid-song (as she does every night) only for the cable to snap and the hair dryer to hit an audience member in the face! The audience member was given champagne during the interval to apologise for the accident.