LONDON // There was a time when the only things that the House of Lords and West End theatres had in common were jokes about bishops and actresses. Now, though, there is a plague on both their houses. Of mice. Things have got so bad in parliament that the peers have set up a "mouse hotline" and have been discussing deploying the ultimate weapon of mouse destruction - a cat.
Except that plan has been rejected lest the creature disturb their lordships' deliberations by wandering into the debating chamber. Meanwhile, in nearby theatreland, stage fright has taken on a whole new dimension with actors and stage managers reporting infestations of not only mice, but rats as well, according to a survey by the actors' union, Equity. The "luvvies" at three-quarters of the 24 theatres in London's West End report regular infestations. Many of the buildings, like the houses of parliament, date to Victorian times.
Christine Payne, the general secretary of Equity, said: "These findings mean that tonight, over 600 actors and stage managers will go to work knowing that they will probably see and smell vermin, both living and decomposing, in their workplace. "I accept that many West End theatres are old and difficult buildings to manage, but this is running out of control." Effective action over at the House of Lords has led to a lively exchange in the chamber after staff in restaurants and bars reported daily mice sightings.
During questions to Lord (Ivon) Brabazon, the head of the Lords administration, Baroness (Ilora) Finlay of Llandaff, a prominent doctor, pointed out that, years ago, there had been a cat in the House of Lords that "apparently caught 60 mice a night". But Lord Brabazon told her one of the reasons for not having a cat was because there would be nothing "to stop them from walking around the palace on desks in offices, on tables in restaurants and bars, and maybe even in the chamber itself".
Instead, the services of a pest control consultant and a full-time pest controller were being retained. "I'm well aware that there are still mice around," he mused. "I saw one in the Bishops' Bar only yesterday evening. I don't know whether it was the same one I saw the day before or a different one. It is difficult to tell the difference." firstname.lastname@example.org