Theatre-goers injured as stage collapses

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The Independent Online

When more than 50 women flocked on to a stage to compete in a best-dressed nun competition, there may well have been fears that the spectacle would descend into a farce.

When more than 50 women flocked on to a stage to compete in a best-dressed nun competition, there may well have been fears that the spectacle would descend into a farce.

What was not expected, however, was that the contestants would find themselves descending through the floorboards quite literally - when the stage collapsed beneath their feet.

Last night, as many as 20 people were injured after plummeting 20ft through a wooden stage at the Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham during a performance of Sing-a-Long-a-Sound of Music. The injured included members of the audience who had been invited on to the stage for the fancy dress competition against a backdrop of the 1965 film The Sound of Music.

Four ambulances took the injured, many of whom were clad in lederhosen or nuns' habits, to a number of hospitals across the city.

While three people were seriously injured in the fall and a number suffered from broken bones, none of the injuries were thought to be life-threatening.

An investigation has been launched by the Health and Safety Executive, said a spokesman for West Midlands Police. "We believe that between 15 and 20 people have been injured, many of them have suffered broken bones after they were encouraged to take to the stage during a performance," he said. "Officers are at the scene with paramedics and fire crews."

At the time of the accident, there were an estimated 50 women on the stage taking part in the fancy dress competition. Because of the increasingly tight space on the stage, a number of women found themselves standing on a makeshift platform above the orchestra pit. The platform collapsed, causing dozens of women to fall from the stage.

Jill Walker, aged 44, a school secretary from Birmingham, said: "Nearly a third of the audience had come dressed as nuns and audience members dressed as nuns were invited on to the stage. Some of them were standing on a platform of boards over the orchestra pit when it suddenly began to concertina.

"The boards just seemed to fold up towards their faces and the women standing in the middle and at the front fell down. There was a slight panic and lots of screaming. It was nasty."

Her son, John, 15, added: "It was not until afterwards that people noticed three yellow signs around a foot in diameter saying keep off."

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