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: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If I were Prime Minister: Every privatised corner of the NHS would be taken back into public ownership

Philip Pullman
 

Errors & Omissions: Magna Carta, sexing bishops and ministerial aides

John Rentoul
As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links