An Italian actor was taken to hospital in a coma after an audience member realised that he was being strangled during an on-stage lynching scene gone wrong.
Raphael Schumacher, 27, was appearing in Mirages, an experimental theatre production staged in Pisa when the incident occurred.
Police are investigating the incident and sealed off the Teatro Lux, while officers interviewed cast, crew members and the family of the actor.
Reports indicate that a box on which Schumacher was supposed to stand while he wore the noose was moved. He was also supposed to wear a body harness.
‘The noose should have been fake and a harness should have caught him if he fell,’ said the actor. ‘I cannot explain how an incident like this happened.’
Mirages is a six-scene immersive performance staged in different parts of the theatre, with the audience walking betwen them.
Schumacher’s ill-fated act took place in the courtyard of the theatre, where a rope had been suspended from a fig tree.
He was wearing a mask for the scene, which was performed successfully earlier in the same evening, but a recent medical graduate saw him trembling and realised something was wrong.
‘We are shocked,’ Gabriele De Luca, the art director at the theatre, said. ‘No one, not even us, understands how this happened and it will be up to the police to shed light on it.’
However, De Luca told Italian newspaper Il Giorno that Schumacher changed the script at the last minute, opting for the noose instead of gunshots.
‘The original monologue included a fake gunshot but he eventually decided for the hanging – without telling us,’ he said.
The actor’s mother, from Como, northern Italy, rejected the theory, reportedly explored by police, that he may have tried to commit suicide.
She said: ‘My son recently lost his father and had ended a relationship but had found his serenity again.
‘He didn’t leave a suicide note and had no reason to kill himself.’