Audience Rudeness

Oh dear, becoming a bit of a theme. Last night we went to see Les Mis at the Queen’s … have seen the show many times over the years at The Palace and on tour but the first time I have seen it there, and the first time in ages that I have been to a “major West End musical” – my London theatre trips tend to be more fringe or serious drama.

I have to say, if the audience were indicative of West End musical audiences in general, I shall not be going again, not even for free. Why? Well, a catalogue of behaviours from a wide range of audience members that were rude almsot beyond belief to both the cast and the rest of the paying public.

Sadly, unlike some recent incidents, it was not just the odd one who was spoiling it, it appears that the general level of behaviour has become selfish, boorish and rude.

We entered the auditorium to find our seats, Dress Circle, middle, nice. So nice that the people along the row had decided to have dinner there, a couple of trays, some chopsticks, glass of wine … they did at least put their meals away when the lights went down.

Probably 25% or more of the Dress Circle decided to take pictures before the show and throughout the interval – I am not sure what part of “photography is strictly forbidden” they don’t understand, or perhaps they simply think it does not apply to them for some reason, but there was no subtlety to it; cameras, iPads, phones, all were used, with and without flash, People standing up with large SLRs, holding up their tablet computers, doing, essentially, whatever they liked. From the flashes going on I assume that the stalls were equally as bad.

I lost count of the number of phones in use throughout the show, iPads too – are owners of these devices too stupid to realise how disruptive it is? If you cannot be out of contact for an hour at a time then do not go to the theatre. Its quite simple. One woman, just in front of us, had two Blackberries on the go almost continuously and made no attempt to mask the screens. People were receiving texts and then sharing them with their neighbours, one woman was even browsing the web on her iPad.

Fortunately, the young boy in front of us who kept moving around, even standing up, was clearly so bored that his parents did not return for the second half … that cut down some of the conversation. However, the general level of chat was quite ridiculous, even through songs like “castle in the clouds” – no wonder the techies have wound the amplification right up! Absolutely no respect was shown for the performers or other audience members, long conversations, unrelated to the show, were being held all over the place – even the woman singing along sibbilently under her breathe had to ask someone to shut up in the end.

I simply do not understand why people who have no intention of watching the show pay so much for tickets to go – here’s a tip, save money, stay at home and do us all a favour!

Last night’s performance had the rudest and most selfish audience I have experienced to date … I think I need to return to good drama for a while, the audiences there seem to know how to behave somewhat better. Does that sound elitist? Maybe, but unless and until audiences learn to treat their fellows, and more importantly the performers, with some basic courtesy then I’d rather stay away – they ruin any pleasure I can get from the show.

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