Blog: Vermin plaguing theatres, claim Equity. Is it that serious?

Ask anyone who has worked in a West End theatre for a lengthy period if they've seen Mickey or Mini, and they'll undoubtedly say they have.

On the few occasions I have rehearsed or performed in West End venues, I've encountered on a couple of occasions the little tinkers scattering around the corridors – scream to the Gods I did – yet blink and you'll miss them.

Equity's West End Spring Clean Campaign has highlighted that 75% of stage managers and actors have confirmed that their venues in the Big Smoke have a real issue with infestations. But is it a problem?

When you consider that 65.5% of actors believe that their personal dressing rooms are affected, then perhaps it is. But to what extent can the ‘crisis' be fixed?

Equity General Secretary Christine Payne has spoken out on the finding, saying: “I accept that many West End theatres are old and difficult buildings to manage, but this is running out of control. These appalling conditions must come to an end.”

Trust me, it's not just West End theatres that have problems, certainly with mice. A good friend called me from his office the other day. “A mouse has climbed into my box and nibbled my nuts,” he said miserably.

Even my small flat had a naughty little Jerry-lookalike having a nosey round our kitchen last year. I naively thought he would find fun and games elsewhere, but until we blocked the tiny holes he continued to amuse himself.

When the mouse catcher came to help (we'll call him Tom), he took delight in telling me that London, as a whole, is swamped with vermin – in particular, West End theatres were his best customer.

If a mouse can squeeze through a hole the size of a pen lid, as Tom confirmed, then how can we combat the problem entirely? Is it safe to lay more traps and poison, on health and safety grounds? Then again, mice are urinary incontinent, another claim by Tom, which means they're constantly peeing themselves. Is that healthy?

There was talk of bringing back ‘Theatre Cats' to combat the problem. Did that happen? Of course it didn't. Theatre staff don't have the time to look after pets and in most theatres, it wouldn't be safe for them anyway.

So, let's hear from you! Is it a problem, and how should it be tackled? Answers on a nibbled postcard below please!


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  1. Geeez, all this fuss, but it’s not THAT bad… I work in a west end theatre as an actor, and i have seen a mouse only once!!! Yes, everyone knows they’re around, but its not like we’re returning to the plague times now is it, really?

    As far I understand, most theatres do their best to tackle what is a constant problem, AND always will be Im afraid…

  2. Well I have to disagree – sorry Andrew. I think it is disgusting and is a major problem. It’s not just mice or rats, we have a big problem with fleas. I have been bitten on more times than i care to mention.

    what we do about it though i simply do not know.

  3. If only mice were as adorable as Jerry (above).

    I will never forget in the late 70s, while watching a matinee performance in the West End, two mice running across my toes. Nor will the rest of the audience and actors on stage, as I jumped 20 feet into the air, screaming my lungs out!

    It was one distrubing and quite hilarious evening thereafter.

  4. Aside from causing itching or allergies to your pets, fleas may also become carriers of certain diseases like tapeworm or Lyme disease. Tapeworm is transmitted to an animal since fleas often carry with them tapeworm eggs that could stay in the animal’s fur. So, when your pet starts itching or when they bite off the fur, they can ingest the tapeworm eggs that reside in the fur and cause tapeworm infection.

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