Producer bemoans behaviour of some audience members during Kit Haringtons final performance in Doctor Faustus
Is there no refuge for the cultured elite, where high art can be enjoyed away from the annoyances of the modern world?
Not according to the award-winning theatre producer Richard Jordan, who has complained that television audiences, enticed to the West End by big-name stars, are ruining the experience by talking, eating loudly and answering their mobile phones.
The spark for his diatribe was the final performance of Doctor Faustus, featuring the Game of Thrones star Kit Harington, at the Duke of Yorks theatre in central London last Friday.
What amazed me most was this audience, many of them Game of Thrones fans, could see nothing wrong in talking, eating and taking pictures throughout the show or complaining when asked to stop, he wrote in The Stage.
A couple saw nothing wrong in producing from their bag a box of McDonalds Chicken McNuggets and a large side of fries, he wrote. At the interval, they had popped out and purchased these to consume through the second half.
Munching certainly seemed to be the order of the day. The couple to my left ate their way through a large tub of popcorn during Act I, while the couple on my right chomped through a packet of crisps. It was like listening to eating in Dolby Stereo, and sadly at the expense of being able to properly hear the lines being spoken on stage, he added.
The latter two couples had bought their snacks at the theatres concession stand, Jordan said.
I understand that theatres rely on the additional income earned from the sale of concessions, but for Ambassador Theatre Group [operator of the Duke of Yorks theatre] to think selling noisy snacks in its theatres is a good idea is beyond me, he said.
Jordan also reported some of the most blatant use of mobile phones to record video and take pictures I have witnessed. The ushers tried their best to stop it, but in the end just gave up. He added that the audience members appeared to be unaware they were doing anything wrong.
A spokesman for the Ambassador Theatre Group said: New audiences are vital to the future of the theatre industry and we are proud of the work that we do at ATG to attract a new generation to our theatres. We look to provide the best possible experience to all our audience members, and do all we can to ensure that everyone attending a show, play or musical can enjoy their trip to the theatre to the full, which includes offering a range of drinks and snacks.
However, we do ask our customers to be considerate of other patrons within our auditoriums, particularly during live performances.
Jordan is not the first to complain about standards of behaviour among theatre audiences. During a performance of Alan Bennetts History Boys at the National in London in 2004, the actor Richard Griffiths ordered a member of the audience to leave the theatre after his phone rang for the sixth time.
That same year, Kevin Spacey admitted he made a point of embarrassing audience members whose phones went off during performances. As artistic director of the Old Vic theatre in London he went further, personally issuing warnings to audiences to switch off their phones and refrain from eating sweets during performances. My feeling is if people dont know how to behave they shouldnt come, he said at the time.
A survey last year of more than 3,000 theatregoers conducted by the WhatsOnStage website found that nearly 60% thought venues inadequately policed audiences, 46% thought there had been a definite decline in behaviour and a further 39% thought there had been a slight decline.