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Friday, 25 October, 2002, 17:57 GMT 18:57 UK
London theatres increase security
Hostages shown on Russia's NTV
Moscow theatre-goers are shown on Russia's NTV
Two London theatres are increasing security in reaction to the siege by Chechen rebels in Moscow, in which more than 600 theatre-goers are being held hostage.

Extra security checks have been put in place at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket and the Strand.

Arnold Crook, chief executive of the Haymarket, said he was hiring more security guards and putting bag checkers on the door.

Both theatres are currently hosting hit shows.

The Haymarket is featuring David Hare's The Breath of Life starring Judy Dench and Maggie Smith and the Strand is staging a revival of George Bernard Shaw's Mrs Warren's Profession.

Rebel leader Movsar Barayev
Chechen rebel leader Movsar Barayev
Crook said it was important not to scare audiences with heavy security.

"It's just not possible to have guards standing in attendance with rifles," he said.

"It's hard enough to get people to the West End as it is."

But other London venues say they will not increase security.

At the Royal Opera House, a spokesman said said, "We're pretty tight security-wise, anyway".

David Blyth, operations director for the Ambassador Theatre Group, said London theatres "are probably some of the city's most heavily regulated buildings".

Danger

Media union Bectu, meanwhile, has warned West End theatres they must ensure safety checks are carried out before fire service strikes begin in the UK next week.

Letters have been sent to theatres, reminding managers that the series of planned strikes could put audiences and staff at risk.

The letter states Bectu members should stop work if they feel they are exposed to danger.

The union says it will "register formal disputes with each offending company" if new checks are not carried out, and safety measures put in place.


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