Five arrested after Just Stop Oil eco-protesters halt Les Miserables West End show

4 October 2023, 22:38 | Updated: 4 October 2023, 23:30

Just Stop Oil interrupted a performance of Les Mis
Just Stop Oil interrupted a performance of Les Mis. Picture: Just Stop Oil

By Emma Soteriou

Five people have been arrested after eco-protesters caused chaos during a Les Miserables performance in the West End.

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Footage shared online showed several members of Just Stop Oil storm the stage during the song One Day More, where an actor waves the famous red flag.

Protesters appeared holding banners reading Just Stop Oil and wearing tops saying The Show Can't Go On.

The crowd could be heard booing as one member of the group addressed the theatre.

One person could be heard shouting: "Get off you stupid people. How dare you." 

Another said: "You naughty people, you naughty people."

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The safety curtain was brought down on the stage and the Sondheim Theatre later had to be evacuated due to the eco-zealots locking themselves to the set.

Community worker Hannah Taylor, 23, who was one of protesters, said: "The show starts with Jean Valjean stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister's starving child. How long before we are all forced to steal loaves of bread?"

She added: "How long before there are riots on the streets? The show cannot go on. We are facing catastrophe. New oil and gas means crop failure, starvation and death. It is an act of war on the global south and an utter betrayal of young people.

"Rishi Sunak has just approved Rosebank, a new oil project in the north sea which will produce as much carbon as the annual emissions of the 28 lowest-income countries combined.

"It will lead to hundreds of thousands of deaths due to starvation as crops fail in the increasingly extreme weather conditions.

"Am I not, like Jean Valjean, justified in breaking the law to oppose this criminal government and its murderous policies? Ask yourself, will you, like the citizens of Paris in the play, stand by and watch, or will you stand up against our governments' criminal plans and call for an end to new oil and gas?"

The Metropolitan Police said: "At about 21:00hrs on Wednesday, 4 October, police were called to a protest inside a theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue, WC1.

"Local officers were quickly on scene and five people have been arrested."

William Village, chief executive of Delfont Mackintosh Theatres - which owns the Sondheim, said: "During the first half of our performance of Les Miserables, individuals from Just Stop Oil invaded the stage, abruptly stopping the show.

"Following our safety protocols, the audience were asked to leave the auditorium and the Met Police attended.

"Regrettably, there was insufficient time to enable us to complete the rest of the performance.

"Whilst we recognise the importance of free expression, we must also respect our audience's right to enjoy the event for which they have paid."