David Lister: Nice sex, shame about the play

Share
Related Topics

It's certainly one of the more bizarre arts stories of the week, if not the year.

People have been spotted not just texting and talking, but canoodling and even, to judge from reports, "pleasuring" one another in the audience at West End theatres. The relatively new trend of theatres allowing audiences to bring drinks into the auditorium might be a factor in this. But whatever the reason, the actors are becoming restless.

Patrick Stewart and Rosamund Pike were among performers who complained this week about new, low levels of audience behaviour. Theatre, it seems, has its own barmy army.

I have to say, I don't quite get the thrill of sex in the stalls. The seats are pretty uncomfortable at the best of times and very expensive. There must be better places.

The top West End producer Nica Burns is now employing security men to eject rowdy and boisterous audience members. Are they then handed over to the police to be formally charged? "I'm sorry, sir, but you and this young lady are under arrest for indecent behaviour during the second soliloquy in Hamlet. We also have reason to believe that you were indulging in an obscene act in one of the tragicomic debates on the human condition in Waiting for Godot. We have decided to ignore a suspected act of indecency during Tom Stoppard's Arcadia, as the boys down the station agree it does get a bit wordy."

Perhaps the answer is for immoral acts in the theatre to be confined to the upper circle so as not to disturb the actors. Such behaviour is pretty rare, I suspect, and I am more concerned about other forms of disturbance in the stalls. This week I saw Jez Butterworth's fantastic new state-of-the-nation play Jerusalem at the Royal Court, with a mesmerising central performance by Mark Rylance. The play opens with a young girl on stage singing the hymn "Jerusalem". At the performance I attended, a gentleman in the stalls decided to sing along. I don't think he was inebriated. My hunch is that there was an involuntary trigger in his brain which jerked him back to his schooldays and morning assembly. The poor girl on stage looked bemused. Singing along – even at musicals – is an immoral act. At straight plays it must be stamped down on. Offenders should be ejected.

And then there's laughter. That in itself is not a crime. But excessive, and excessively loud and forced laughter can spoil even the smartest comedy. I would particularly like the new security guards to pounce on people who laugh uproariously during Shakespeare's comedies, and to use G20-style force on anyone even giggling during the porter's speech in Macbeth. Such people are not genuinely amused; they are showing off their English degrees.

I also think a strict three coughs and you're out policy should be instituted. Playhouses are not hospitals. Neither are they cinemas. Unwrapping sweets is noisier than a passionate embrace.

There's plenty for the new theatre security guards to get worked up about. But I shouldn't worry too much about sex in the stalls. It's not going to happen often, and if it does, it must be a pretty boring play.

An aphorism a day is the Cohen way

The new memoir of the American showbiz lawyer Steven Machat, which is published next month, has a memorable exchange with Leonard Cohen. The singer tells Machat he is going later that day to the temple. Machat teases him about observing a Jewish festival, saying: "I thought you were supposed to be a Buddhist." Cohen replies: "I want to keep all my options open. Maybe Buddha, maybe God."

Machat then asks him: "What are you doing now?" Cohen responds: "You know how it is, Steven. We humans are always looking for things to do between meals."

Did Cohen, I wonder, always come out with great aphorisms every time he opened his mouth? He seems to eschew small talk for lines that are potential album titles. Or potential titles of an autobiography.

Pity the poor comedy critic at this time of year

The only funny line that I can recall in my years covering the Edinburgh Festival was not actually intended to be funny and was, immodestly, about myself. I wrote a slightly negative piece about women on the stand-up circuit and received a lecture in print from the comedy critic of Time Out magazine, culminating in the angry last line: "David Lister should expose himself to more female comedians."

I'm trying. I'm trying. This year's Edinburgh line-up has a wealth of comedians, female and male, and it could be a vintage year. My heart does go out, though, to comedy critics and also to newspaper readers at this time of year. Every paper is full of comedy reviews from Edinburgh, but how do you actually review comedy? Give away the jokes and you spoil the show for everyone still to see it; don't tell any of the jokes and you are left annoying readers with meaningless descriptions of a "wonderful routine about a bus journey".

It's tricky. No wonder the one thing that comedy critics have in common with comedians is that they never smile.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketers / Sales - Home Based - OTE £23,500

£19500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced B2B Telemarketer wa...

Recruitment Genius: Showroom Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for two Showro...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A teenage girl uses her smartphone in bed.  

Remove smartphones from the hands of under-18s and maybe they will grow up to be less dumb

Janet Street-Porter
Rohingya migrants in a boat adrift in the Andaman Sea last week  

Burma will regret shutting its eyes to the fate of the Rohingya boat people

Peter Popham
Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor