London stage fright: rats, mice and fleas-survey

Thu Mar 4, 2010 9:01am EST
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LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Performers in London's West End are having to cope with a different kind of stage fright in the form of mice, rat and flea infestations in theatres, according to a new survey by actors' union Equity.

"The findings have shocked even hardened West Enders," the union said in its report, which found that three quarters of actors and stage managers reported regular infestations including mice, rats and fleas.

Equity general secretary Christine Payne said the findings suggested that each night, more than 600 actors and stage managers would go to work knowing they were likely to see and smell vermin, "both living and decomposing," at work.

"I accept that many West End theatres are old and difficult buildings to manage, but this is running out of control," she added. "These appalling conditions must come to an end."

The survey was completed by nearly 350 performers and stage managers in 24 different theatres, many of them featuring world-famous shows.

Individuals surveyed reported that floors had been eaten by mice which also left droppings and unpleasant smells.

"I had tiny bite marks on my lipstick recently when I left the lid off," one respondent said.

(Reporting by Valle Aviles Pinedo; editing by Keith Weir and Mike Collett-White)