Entertainment & Arts

Actor David Birrell sues Donmar over gun accident

David Birrell
Image caption David Birrell's lawyer said the actor's eye had been left 'shrunken and unsightly'

An actor who was shot in the eye and blinded when a replica revolver misfired on stage is suing the Donmar Warehouse over the accident.

David Birrell said he was left with an "unsightly" disfigurement when the gun backfired during the production of Passion in October 2010.

Mr Birrell is suing for £250,000, claiming the disability he suffered has affected his career.

The theatre company has admitted liability for the accident.

However Donmar Warehouse denies negligence and is seeking a contribution to the damages from the prop specialists who they say supplied the gun, History in the Making Ltd.

According to papers filed at the High Court, the actor suffered "total and permanent blindness in the right eye" after a blank cartridge in the gun he was firing "ejected rearwards and at high velocity through the breach cut into the revolver and into his right eye".

It added the accident left Mr Birrell's eye "shrunken and unsightly", which has forced him to now wear "a cosmetic shell" to disguise its appearance.

The prosthetic eye "looks as if it is staring [and] looks sunken in appearance" which, coupled with "scarring and distortion", means "the overall effect is of marked asymmetry to the upper half of Mr Birrell's face."

'Competently serviced'

Mr Birrell's barrister said the actor had "undergone counselling" due to his condition and is "at a disadvantage on the labour market as a result of both his functional and cosmetic disability".

It is also claimed the actor 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".

In their defence to the action, the Donmar Warehouse admits that the theatre company are liable under the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.

However it said it was reserving the right to claim against History in the Making Ltd, stating they never had the chance to examine the gun as it was taken as part of a criminal investigation and not returned.

Lawyers for History in the Making said the guns supplied had been "competently serviced and cleaned prior to supply to the theatre".

"It is currently unknown whether the gun used by Mr Birrell in the accident was one of those supplied by History in the Making and Donmar Warehouse are required to prove that it was," the documents said.

It claimed the main cause of the accident was due to the theatre company using "defective ammunition" which History in the Making did not supply.

Mr Birrell is currently appearing in two productions for the Open Air theatre company in London's Regents Park.

Last year he won the Critics' Award for Theatre in Scotland, for best male performance for his portrayal of Sweeney Todd.

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