West End Actors Break More than LegsDate: 28 August 1998
A study published this week found that almost half of the actors and dancers who tread West End boards have suffered injuries, with more than 40 per cent of actors forced to miss at least one performance as a result.
Andrew Lloyd Webber's Starlight Express, a fast-paced musical on roller skates, was found to be the riskiest of all the shows surveyed. The 21 performers reported an average of nearly three injuries a piece. One former Starlight star, Caron Davis, tried unsuccessfully to sue Webber's Really Useful Theatre Company last year for a 1994 injury which effectively ended her career as a dancer.
Overall, the study found that between five and 10 performers had sustained injuries serious enough to prevent them from completing their contracts. Women were more likely to be hurt, probably because of having to wear high heels in many roles.
Sixty per cent of performers felt their injuries were preventable. One of the main culprits seemed to be the increasing use of raked stages which are sloped towards the audience to give better views. One in five reported injuries had occurred on raked stages.
Actors' union Equity has recently reached an agreement with the Society of London Theatres to ensure that actors in relevant productions receive tuition from experts on how to move safely across raked stages.
The study was undertaken by researchers at the University of Texas and published this week in Occupation and Environmental Medicine magazine.