Noisy, obnoxious and greedy theatre audiences prompt rise in 'stage rage'

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The Independent Culture

Britain's theatres are filled with appalling audiences – they snore; they eat noisily during the show; couples snog; people put their feet on the seat in front of them.

Britain's theatres are filled with appalling audiences – they snore; they eat noisily during the show; couples snog; people put their feet on the seat in front of them. Even those who do concentrate on the show often fail to get back from the interval in time, a survey published today suggests.

The increasingly poor behaviour of some audience members is leading to a new phenomenon, "stage rage".

It seems that while mobile phones may be the biggest irritant to actors, audiences have more old-fashioned problems to endure. Their complaints even include "having to sit behind an excessively tall person".

And is there anything more annoying than the person next to you singing along at a musical? This, too, is apparently a common occurrence.

The survey, by the website Whatsonstage.com, involved questioning 500 theatre-goers about their pet hates and their attitudes to fellow audience members. The biggest disturbance to live stage performances was not the mobile phone but the low-tech sweet wrapper. About 79 per cent of those questioned said the rustling of sweet wrappers often disturbed their enjoyment of a theatrical performance. The other common offensive actions were talking and whispering (voted for by 69 per cent) and arriving late to the show/returning late from the interval (64 per cent). The ringing of mobile phones came a relatively distant fourth (a nuisance to 59 per cent of theatre-goers), just above the beeping of watches, organisers and other electronic devices (47 per cent).

Also scoring highly were excessively tall people sitting in front of others (38 per cent); eating and chewing gum (28 per cent); singing along during musicals (27 per cent); hogging the armrest (20 per cent); and snoring (13 per cent).

Overall, a massive 92 per cent of theatre-goers said they frequently found other audience members to be inconsiderate, and 84 per cent said the situation had worsened over the past five years. Evidently, they aren't shy about venting their anger and frustration either. More than two out of three respondents (69 per cent) said they had been driven to confronting a fellow member of the audience over unacceptable behaviour. Several also recalled anecdotes about fights breaking out in the stalls between disgruntled audience members and some performances in which the actors also got involved in the ruckus.

And the pet peeves don't end with that list. Other audience habits included: bad body odour, taking flash photographs during a show, removing shoes, leaving before or during a curtain call, big hairdos, not keeping children under control, snogging, people who enter at the wrong end of numbered rows, men scratching their five o'clock shadow with their programmes, saying "is there anyone famous in this?", changing seats, kicking the seat in front of you, commenting on the play within earshot of an actor, putting feet on seats, and "obnoxious Americans".

Terri Paddock, the editorial director of Whatsonstage.com, said: "Obviously, some of the points raised in this poll are amusing, but the serious point to keep in mind is how easy it is for an evening in the theatre to be spoilt by careless or inconsiderate behaviour."

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