Theatre Manners—Time For Action?

News   Theatre Manners—Time For Action?

Pop star Boy George, normally seen as a national treasure, caused something of a fuss when he wore his stovepipe hat whilst watching the press night of A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, at the New Ambassadors Theatre.

This has added a new irritation to the list of potential ones facing audiences at a theatre, along with the more conventional ones of draughts, uncomfortable seats and mobile phones.

Similarly, the press night of Mahler's Conversion at the Aldwych was marred for some people by an incessant stream of late comers: this despite the fact that the performance itself started late.

Theatres vary wildly in their approach to latecomers, not least because the decision as to admitting them or not is usually taken by the producers and will relate to the action of the play, whether and when a suitable break occurs and so on.

This can cause tension between theatre managers and the producers, and there is no easy answer: those who get there on time feel that latecomers shouldn't disrupt the play, but hell hath no fury like a latecomer (and it's never their fault, of course - the trains, the traffic, whatever) denied access to a seat they've paid for. Even if the theatre kindly produces a live relay on a television set. In fact this seems to goad them even further.

Arriving late - like not turning your mobile off, or wearing something guaranteed to interfere with your neighbor's view of the stage - should be a source of deep shame and embarrassment, but often isn't: on one occasion during a production of The Homecoming at the Comedy Theatre the star, Warren Mitchell - in the role currently being played by Sir Ian Holm - was so infuriated by latecomers pushing their way, while talking, to their seats in the middle of a front row of the stalls, that he stopped acting, marched to the front of the stage, and told them off. After a brief pause for the applause to die down he returned to his on-stage armchair and the play continued.

—by Paul Webb Theatrenow