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Theatre, with added bounce

August 5, 2009

It seems the West End Theatre needs more muscle. As reported in the Daily Mail on the 3rd August, many producers of hit shows are now hiring security, or ‘bouncers’ to use the vernacular, to put a stop to the rise in bad behaviour in the audience.

Such hair-raising incidents spoiling the theatre-going experience have included fighting and other drunken behaviour, fondling each other (clearly upgrading as that’s usually left for the back seat of a cinema) and publicly urinating at the side of the stage. And where would we be without the now obligatory chorus of mobile phone ring tones followed by the sounds of the muppets actually taking the call?

I was witness to the start of this rot in the late 90s when I went to see The Blair Witch Project in my local cinema, a film that left us distinctly unimpressed. Suddenly in the last ten minutes, when we should’ve had the tension racked up to 11, a mobile phone went off at the back and we thought that was bad enough. But then, this very loud voice started having a conversation: “yeah! I’m in the cinema, watching Blair Witch. It’s shit”. I’m sure the whole room turned and scowled but he ignored everyone and continued like he was at home. More recently, I was at a half empty cinema where the community spirit was alive and well because we all barracked a man who turned up half an hour late then proceeded to talk his friend through the film No Country For Old Men. He’d seen it already, but we hadn’t and we were having none of it. Back in the 80s, mobile phones, which are now the scourge of venues everywhere, were rare, heavy, cumbersome and expensive. It was an instrument for the few, the rich, the yuppies. When phones started shrinking in size, from brick to biscuit and became cheaper so they were more widely available, it enabled the people who couldn’t function without the World knowing exactly how important they were to speak loudly at every opportunity and we became unwilling listeners to the minutiae of their lives. The humble bus, as a public transport vehicle, became the grow bag for this phenomenon. We can’t yet legislate for who’s allowed to have a mobile phone so it looks like we will have to put up with this kind of nonsense for a while yet. Which brings me back to what is being done in Theatre land. Being allowed to take alcohol into the auditorium probably doesn’t help on the behaviour front so I suppose this will be banned, bringing us back to the pleasure of cramming into the bar in the vain hope of getting a drink within the 20 minute interval slot. Make the tickets more expensive, maybe. I don’t go to the theatre very often but it seems to be a very expensive night out to me, so I don’t know where these £10 tickets come from which enables some to treat the theatre as an extension of their TV watching experience at home.

I can only wish the theatre owners the best of luck. I haven’t heard of anything like this at the Opera but I suppose it will only be a matter of time.

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