true gripes noisy theatre-goers

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The Independent Online
When I win the lottery I'm going to pay for all West End theatres to be wired up to huge neon signs which react to audience noise by flashing "Shut the f*** up" in bright white light. If I hit the big time in roll- over week, I'll even stretch to minor electric shocks, administered through devices in the Dralon flip-up seats.

At awkward social gatherings there's always someone who clears phlegm from their larynx during any conversational lulls. It is this type who, at the theatre, acquaints us with the frog in their throat each time the tension mounts and the dialogue pauses. This person hates Pinter.

A friend was recently at the Whitehall Theatre enjoying Priestley's Dangerous Corner when two women behind her started chatting merrily. My friend asked them, repeatedly, to stop talking. After the show, the women caught up with her by the exit and said: "That was a private conversation and none of your business. It's a pity your mother never taught you manners."

Technology creeps into theatreland heralded by the bleep of digital watches and the shrill of mobile phones. Anyone who takes these into a live performance is obviously a sub-moronic imbecile and therefore an unfair target for my wrath. However, special mention must go to the vacant-looking American woman who recenty took her video camera to the Hackney Empire. The camcorder whirred through key scenes so that friends back home could marvel at her homemade blockbuster: "Ralph Fiennes IS ... Hamlet".

And finally, take a bow, all you sweetie-eaters, and never again darken the Upper Circle. Thumbs-down to the Donmar Warehouse, which sells Kettle Chips and cellophane bags of wine gums to the Tribe Who Will Not Be Silent. Ideally, no confectionery whatsoever should be sold to the punters before a play. Not only would actors be spared the ignominy of competing with the rustle of wrappers, but also sugary substances would not go down the wrong way and irritate sensitive throats.

My dream is simple: all theatres should be like the National, where programmes carry a request to the audience to keep quiet, and where ushers say they have no experience of noisy audiences because "the kind that come to the National know how to behave".