MOST actors would love to boast that they ‘brought the house down,’ but as plaster fell from the roof of London’s Apollo Theatre on the 19 December 2013, that expression took on a whole new meaning for Patrick Driver and the 700-strong audience watching him in The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time.
It’s a performance Driver will never forget. The actor, who stars alongside Sean O’Callaghan and Niamh McCannas in Brian Friel’s Faith Healer at the Lyceum, from tomorrow, was on stage as the roof collapsed, causing panic in the packed auditorium.
“It was all very strange and very dramatic,” he recalls. “We didn’t really know what had happened. I was on stage when all I heard was shouting, and the sound of seats banging as people got up in the top gallery.”
What Driver didn’t know until a lot later, was that sections of plaster were detaching themselves from the venue’s ceiling.
“Initially I thought it was some kind of demonstration or protest, but then I realised things were falling from above, but I couldn’t really see what it was...”
He continues, “Then the auditorium just disappeared in a cloud of dust and debris, and everything went dark.
“It became evident pretty quickly that something awful had happened. The stalls disappeared and this cloud of dust billowed up on to the stage.”
Making the situation all the more surreal was the fact that the show’s score continued to play.
“The music was still going and then people started to climb out of the stalls onto the stage.
“They were covered in dust and with cuts and bruises. We started grabbing hold of them and helping them up, then stage management shouted at us all to clear the stage - when stage management say jump, you jump. So we exited backstage taking a few punters with us.”
Once clear of the immediate danger, the seriousness of the situation slowly because clear.
“Even when we found ourselves out on the street at the Stage Door, we still didn’t know what had happened. We could hear sirens but it was actually through Twitter - a few people had mobile phones - that we discovered the roof had come down.
“A massive strip of plaster had come away from the ceiling, but the most shocking thing was going in the day after to collect our stuff from the dressing room.
“We walked on to the stage and looking up and there were bits of timber hanging by a wire, one of the lighting rigs around the balcony was hanging on by a wire, a lantern had landed on the edge of one of the balconies - if that had gone six inches to the right it would have gone straight into the auditorium.
“It could have been so much worse. I have to say that it was a miracle no one died. It really was.”
Thankfully, such incidents tend to be a once in a lifetime experience and Driver is excited to be returning to the Capital, having previously appeared at the Traverse and brought shows to the Fringe, to star in Faith Healer, which previews at the Lyceum from tomorrow.
For those unfamiliar with Brian Friel’s three-hander, it tells the stories of faith healer ‘Fantastic’ Frank Hardy, his mistress Grace, and his manager Teddy.
The lame, the ill and the broken-hearted all gather for the Fantastic Francis Hardy: Faith Healer.
Travelling with his two companions, he roams the small towns of Scotland and Wales healing the sick, trying to find a way home.
Driver, who plays Teddy, says, “Teddy is Frank’s Cockney manager, an old pro. The stories in the play find the three recounting similar events but each has a different take on what happened, so it is up to the audience to work out who is telling the truth.
“Brian Friel is a master story-teller, this is a beautifully written thriller really. You get a hint at what has been going on but because we all tell the story slightly differently, you have to think about who is telling the truth. I like plays where the audience have to do a bit of work.”
Faith Healer, Royal Lyceum, Grindlay Street, tomorrow-7 February, 7.30pm (matinees 2pm), £10-£29, 0131-248 4848