Whatsonstage.com reports that actor David Birrell, who was blinded by a prop which backfired two years ago, has filed a £250,000 damages claim against the Donmar Warehouse.
The actor was portraying Colonel Ricci in the 2010 production of Stephen Sondheim's 'Passion at the Donmar' when a replica gun malfunctioned in a scene involving a duel. The blank cartridge shot backwards into Birell's right eye, causing permanent blindness.
In the lawsuit against Donmar Warehouse Projects Ltd, the actor claims that "the resultant 'cosmetic disability' has adversely affected his career as well as his personal life." Birrell wears a prosthetic shell to cover the injury. While Donmar Warehouse Projects has admitted liability for the injury and guarantees that Birrell will receive a payout, they deny claims that it acted negligently.
Donmar is seeking a contribution from History in the Making Ltd, the company which provided the prop for the production, yet they have responded that "it is yet to be proved whether the prop in question, which was promptly removed as evidence, was in fact one of their guns." The company also maintains that the accident was caused by the ammunition and not the gun, which had been cleaned and serviced appropriately.
In the court hearing, Birrell's lawyer stated he has 'lost the facility of binocular vision, has difficulty judging distances and with hand-eye coordination, tends to collide with objects on his right hand side' and that his 'previous interests of photography, cycling fencing running swimming and squash were curtailed.'
Birrell is currently starring in Ragtime and A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park, despite his injury.