We are all used to the chatters and popcorn rattlers in the cinema. It comes with the territory. I remember my mum scolding wayward youths in our local flicks and pointing out, much to my embarrassment, what a well behaved little boy I was in comparison.
I suppose it’s because, however riveting, a film is a disembodied entity. In live theatre on the other hand you would think an element of polite respect would naturally occur. Not so according to the latest edition of What’s On Stage. Apparently audience rudeness in live theatre is becoming a disturbingly common phenomenon.
Not only does the correspondent quote the ever more frequent use of mobile phones during a show, he has witnessed loud discussions about the content of the play itself and what appear to be full scale picnics taking place in the stalls. Bizarrely, having remonstrated with some particularly intrusive talkers in front , he was told afterwards that a fellow behind him had attempted to set fire to the back of his jacket!
I have described in a previous column how my friend’s West End debut in the The Far Pavilions was ruined for me during his big dying scene. There he was, gasping his last after a particularly gruelling battle somewhere to the north of the Khyber Pass when the woman next to me decided to ask her partner to explain the off-side rule. At sixty quid a ticket, this seemed an ill-opportune moment to discuss footy.
Even opera is not free from this plague. At a Bristol performance of the Magic Flute, Papageno was touchingly explaining his longing for love. If only a beautiful lady would enter his life. At that moment a particularly hacking cough rang out from the front row. Cor, I hope that’s not her, commented the wily bird catcher!
Sometimes interruptions from the audience can be appropriate. Halfway through a seemingly endless production of Wagner’s Tanhauser at ENO, a bag lady entered the dress circle and stomped across to the opposite exit, pausing only to loudly address us with ‘I can’t believe you lot are watching this rubbish’. (Expletives deleted!)
How she got in I don’t know, but we all agreed she was right!