The debate about audience etiquette seems to be the something that is regularly brought up. From standing ovations provided when others don’t think they are provided, to eating snacks, with the amount of coverage it gets from our arts journalism publishers, it was only a matter of time before something drastic happened.
I have long been against an ever increasing ground floor rules for theatre etiquette, certainly to the levels that are suggested by some people. I believe this for one main reason, it was going to do more harm than good and detract people rather than attract people.
I remember seeing the tour of The Play that Goes when someone in front of me was pelted by sweets by the person next to me due to them getting their phone out. It’s laughable but also very serious. The twitter persona the Westend Producer had to clarify earlier in the year that a Theatre Prefect scheme he wrote about in his latest book should not be taken seriously.
This weekend, it was reported that the BFI removed a lady with Asperger syndrome from a screening of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly for laughing too much. The BFI has since apologised and said in a ‘challenging and complex situation, we got it wrong’
The decision was taken due to an audience complaint about the laughing and so it really does bring in to question what should be tolerated and when action should be taken.
Of course, you can’t put bad behaviour to an audience member which a disability but at the same time, it was clear in this occurrence that to other audience members it was a distraction and a distraction that needed to be dealt with by the venue regardless of the scenario.
I recall, when I was at University when a lady requested to be moved to a different area of the theatre due to someone in our group having a loud laugh and was laughing; at a comedy.
While the amount of relaxed performances is on the rise, our theatres, cinemas and other arts venues should be a place of inclusion and accessibility. Not segregation. They are a great alternative but we should not push it on those who would rather attend other public performances.
The debate about audience etiquette has turned sour and surely it was only a matter of time before something like like this happened. Let’s just hope, that the debate gets the consideration it needs. Let’s not make anyone feel like they can’t attend a performance. We should be an industry full of tolerance, not hostility.