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King’s Head theatregoer faints during gory Islington opera

PUBLISHED: 15:41 15 April 2011

n Roman philosopher Seneca (right, Martin Nelson) is ordered to kill himself by Emperor Nero (Jessica Walker)

n Roman philosopher Seneca (right, Martin Nelson) is ordered to kill himself by Emperor Nero (Jessica Walker)

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MEDICS raced to a pub theatre after a woman fainted during a bloody suicide scene in its latest production – amid fears she had suffered a stroke.

An ambulance was rushed to the King’s Head in Upper Street, Islington, after a woman in her 40s collapsed during a performance of the opera The Coronation of Poppea.

The alarm was raised by the woman’s daughter after she passed out when a character appeared to slash his wrists with a razor.

Kevin Wilson, the show’s publicist, said: “She fainted when the actor took out a razor blade and cut his arm, and blood started running down.

“The daughter said she thought it might be a stroke so an ambulance and motorbike were called. Nobody quite knew what was going on.”

But the woman – who had a front row view of the gory action – had only fainted and did not need to be taken to hospital. She was well enough to watch the rest of the show.

Mark Ravenhill, the director, said: “This was the second performance – at the first show a man went green and walked out. When the woman saw the razor blade come out she had shut her eyes.

“She was imagining what was happening, and that made it worse. It goes to show the combined power of the theatre and the imagination. I find it quite hard to watch myself – and I have been in rehearsals for weeks and weeks.”

First aid

Mr Ravenhill, a renowned playwright used to shocking audiences with works such as Shopping and F**king, said the special effect was not supposed to be realistic.

It was created by sticking together two fake razors, with a capsule of stage blood in the middle that releases the red liquid when squeezed.

He added that theatre staff would be given first aid training and advice on how to deal with faintings ahead of future performances.

The opera, produced by the award-winning company OperaUpClose, will be next staged on April 28.


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