I recently saw Britain’s Got Bhangra at the Hackney Empire and had the misfortune of sitting in what was the worst audience I have ever been in. When I Tweeted about this, the show’s producer, Rifco Arts, pointed out that many of their audience members have never been to the theatre before. As many of you know, I very much support anything that gets new people to the theatre, so I love that Rifco arts try to encourage new theatregoers to see a show – but it left me asking a question. How much is “First time at the theatre” an excuse for bad behaviour?
(Please do note that this blog is not a criticism of the show or anyone involved. The bad audience could have happened at any show. It just got me thinking)
Now, when I say this particular audience was badly behaved, I don’t necessarily mean “loud”. I don’t mind a loud audience – believe me I have sat two rows in front of an Italian school group at We Will Rock You and they gave me a whole new definition of loud. The difference, though, is that they were loud in context. The cast must have felt like rockstars that night because this group absolutely raised the roof in the right places but were quiet and respectful in others. Out of context noise, however, is something I can’t put up with in a theatre. The girl behind me insisted on an almost constant stream of “I like her dress/shoes/smile” in a LOUD voice – annoying right? I once sat behind a couple at Wicked who started discussing their doctor’s appointment half way through the show. I don’t know what goes through people’s mind when they pay up to £70 to see a show and then talk all the way though it, not only meaning that they miss half of the show, but the people around them are fit to burst with rage by the time the show is finished too. I wouldn’t have minded so much but half of the ones yapping all the way through weren’t clapping at the end of songs or such… follow the lead of those who have been to the theatre before and CLAP!
We all know that one of the most annoying things in a theatre is the mobile phone. There’s just no place for it. At Britain’s Got Bhangra, there were three, YES THREE announcements regarding mobile phone use – even one that was in two languages and included annoying ringing noises. So you would think everyone would be duly informed, yes? No! The girl next to me insisted on checking her phone approximately every seven minutes throughout the show, as did others around me. It upset me that the gentleman in front of me, who was a member of the press, also insisted on looking at his phone almost constantly. We press people are meant to set an example, right?
All in all, the audience lead to me being absolutely infuriated by the end of the show, which was a shame as the show was entertaining. Would it really hurt people to put their phones and cameras away and just SHUT UP for the duration of the show? As much as I do genuinely believe people may have been at the theatre for the first time, surely not talking through a show and putting your phone away after the THREE announcements are common courtesy rather than experience.
Would be interested to hear your stories too folks!