Audience ‘went mad’ when Just Stop Oil activists disrupted West End show – court

The audience at a West End production of Les Miserables brought to a halt by Just Stop Oil protesters “went mad” and “started swearing”, a court has heard.

The performance at the Sondheim Theatre was stopped at about 9pm on October 5 last year when activists stormed the stage and locked themselves to the set, their trial was told.

The “angry” audience of around 1,000 people was asked to leave the auditorium before the performance was brought to a halt around an hour later, the court heard.

Noah Crane, left to right, Hannah Taylor, Hanan Ameur, Poppy Bliss and Lydia Gribbin
Noah Crane, left to right, Hannah Taylor, Hanan Ameur, Poppy Bliss and Lydia Gribbin deny aggravated trespass (James Manning/PA)

The estimated cost to the theatre of cancelling the performance was £60,000, the court was told.

Hannah Taylor, 23, Lydia Gribbin, 28, Hanan Ameur, 22, Noah Crane, 18, and Poppy Bliss, 19, deny aggravated trespass.

Gribbin and Crane also deny causing criminal damage to the theatre’s orchestra pit netting, designed to protect the musicians from objects falling off the stage.

The netting suffered “structural damage” from the weight of two of the protesters standing on it during the incident, it is alleged.

Asked how the audience had reacted to the group disrupting the performance, theatre manager Daniel Lewis told Westminster Magistrates’ Court: “I heard frustration, I heard anger, I heard swearing.”

“The audience were singing to try and drown out the sound of the protest,” he added.

Mobile phone footage shown to the court showed theatregoers reacting angrily to the news the performance had been called off.

Just Stop Oil protest
Police attended the incident at the Sondheim Theatre on October 5 (Catherine Francoise/PA)

The protesters entered the stage during a performance of Do You Hear The People Sing?

One of the activists unfurled a flag with the “Just Stop Oil message” on it, the court heard, as others attached themselves to the stage.

They occupied the stage for around an hour before police were able to remove them, it is alleged.

Prosecutor Jason Seetal told the court: “Just prior to the interval, (the protesters) have risen from their seats and moved to the stage area.

“Gribbin and Crane climbed on netting covering the orchestra pit … it suffered structural damage.”

“The production was stopped … it was occupied for around an hour.”

Giving evidence, Gribbin said she did not want the orchestra pit to be damaged by the protest and believed it would be safe to stand on the netting.

Les Miserables company manager Matt Byham said a child actor had been on stage at the time of the protest.

In a written statement read to the court, he said: “I was angry they had done this while a child actor was on stage.”