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".
A few people clapped after the first scene during the first preview. It is not unusual for an audience to clap during scene changes...— Jamie Lloyd (@lloydjamie) July 6, 2014
It has never happened since and has been completely overblown. Ridiculous. The standing ovations have been instant & from young & old alike.— Jamie Lloyd (@lloydjamie) July 6, 2014
"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.”