Martin Freeman fans are not 'ruining' Richard III, says director Jamie Lloyd

Theatre purists are complaining that a younger audience is ignoring etiquette

Martin Freeman fans have been accused of “ruining” the West End production of Richard III with their relentless clapping and cheering.

The 42-year-old actor, known for The Hobbit movies and hit TV drama Sherlock, is starring as the monarch in Jamie Lloyd’s Shakespearean adaptation.

Freeman’s appearance has attracted a younger audience who purists say are breaching “theatre etiquette” with “disruptive” applause after Richard III’s opening monologue.

For years, tradition has dictated that theatre-goers clap at the beginning of the interval and again at the final curtain.

“Martin Freeman’s face is on every bus in London,” said actress Maureen Lipman. “The producers are aiming for people who spend most of their day with wire in their ears. It is not so much Richard III as Richard the rock concert.”

Theatre blogger Claire Dikecoglu acknowledged Freeman’s popularity but added that her “pet peeve” was “everything getting standing ovations these days”.

Others have praised Freeman’s ability to encourage more young people to take an interest in the stage.

Lloyd defended audiences at London’s Trafalgar Studios, noting that the play’s standing ovations have been “instant” for the entire cast, not just Freeman, and that reports of cheering at inappropiate moments are "totally untrue".

"I think that we are seeing an authentic, enthusiastic reaction from a generational muddle in the audience," Lloyd added.

“Younger, first-time theatre-goers are more vocal and they are certainly screaming their appreciation at the end.”