West End show Les Miserables interrupted by Just Stop Oil activists

Five people have been arrested after a group of Just Stop Oil activists disrupted a performance of Les Miserables at the Sondheim Theatre in London’s West End on Wednesday night. The protesters entered the stage during a performance of the show’s famous song One More Day, holding up orange banners with the group’s logo and asking the audience to “join the rebellion”. The cast tried to continue the song, but were soon escorted offstage by the technical staff. The safety curtain and the main curtain came down, and the show was stopped.

Just Stop Oil is an environmental activist group that demands the UK government to stop licensing all new oil, gas and coal projects. The group is known for staging demonstrations at public events, such as tennis matches at Wimbledon. The group said that four of its members had locked themselves to the stage using flexible bicycle locks, and compared their action to the June Rebellion depicted in Les Miserables, where ordinary people rose up against a government that ignored their wellbeing.

West End show Les Miserables interrupted by Just Stop Oil activists
West End show Les Miserables interrupted by Just Stop Oil activists

Audience reacts with boos and anger

The audience at the Sondheim Theatre reacted with boos and anger to the protest, telling the activists to “get off” and “go away”. Some of them also chanted “we want Les Mis” and “refund”. Some audience members expressed their frustration on X, formerly known as Twitter, saying that they had paid a lot of money for the tickets and that they were disappointed by the interruption. One of them wrote: “Just Stop Oil have just ruined my night at Les Mis. I’m all for saving the planet but this is not the way to do it.”

William Village, chief executive of Delfont Mackintosh Theatres, which owns the Sondheim Theatre, said that “safety protocols” had to be followed and that the audience were asked to leave the auditorium. He said that there was insufficient time to complete the rest of the performance, and that tickets for the performance would be refunded. He also said that he recognised the importance of free expression, but that he had to respect the audience’s right to enjoy the event for which they had paid.

Police arrest five people and clear the theatre

The Metropolitan Police said that they were called to a protest inside a theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue at about 9pm on Wednesday. Local officers were quickly on scene and arrested five people on suspicion of aggravated trespass. They were taken into custody at a central London police station. The police also said that they cleared the theatre and that no injuries were reported.

The Just Stop Oil group posted a video of one of its members, Hanan, explaining why they had chosen to target Les Miserables. She said that they were facing a catastrophe due to new oil and gas projects, and that they were an act of war on the global south and a betrayal of young people. She also criticised Prime Minister Rishi Sunak for approving hundreds of gas and oil licences, knowing the full consequences this would have on the climate and society.

Just Stop Oil plans more actions in October

The protest at Les Miserables was not an isolated incident, but part of a series of actions planned by Just Stop Oil in October. The group said that they would continue to disrupt events and venues across London until their demands were met. They also called on people to join them in their campaign and to take part in civil disobedience.

The group’s website states: “We are not here to make friends or influence people. We are here to stop oil.” The group claims that oil is responsible for 40% of global carbon emissions, and that it is driving climate change, biodiversity loss, human rights violations, wars and corruption. The group also says that oil is not necessary for our energy needs, and that there are alternatives such as renewable sources and energy efficiency.

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