Stage managers’ show reports detail every aspect of a performance from technical info to the running time. Fergus Morgan takes his pick of the funniest moments when shows around the country went wrong this year
Marital mayhem in Crimes on the Christmas Express at the Lichfield Garrick:
“A very drunk woman on the front row started answering Philippe’s rhetorical questions, which was irritating the audience, but at the point he finally won Stephanie’s heart she loudly declared to her partner: ‘You never kiss me like that anymore,’ and they erupted into laughter.”
Failing to keep mum at A Hundred Words for Snow at Vault Festival:
“Director’s parent wouldn’t stop speaking casually to the character Rory as if she were Gemma for the entire preset.”
Fight spills on to the stage in Jerusalem at the Watermill, Newbury:
“Having just washed his hair in a toilet during one scene, Johnny ‘Rooster’ Byron (Jasper Britton) flicked his sodden locks, spattering a member of the audience in the front row who took exception, jumped up, threw his pint over Rooster and had to be escorted off the premises.”
Nightmare for sleeper in Don Carlos at Exeter Northcott Theatre:
“An audience member on the front row unfortunately succumbed to the land of nod and alcohol and fell asleep during III.iii. His snoring became so loud and disruptive that the issue needed to be addressed so [actors] Mr Burke and Mr D’Silva decided to make light of it and staying in character directed a couple of paragraphs directly towards him, much to the amusement of the rest of the audience. This was followed by a cheer when the audience member in question awoke to much embarrassment. He was removed from the theatre in the interval.”
Terrifying toddler in Three Sat Under the Banyan Tree at Coventry Belgrade
“During Tara Arts’ and Polka Theatre’s show, the actors make animal noises. At one performance, a boy on the front row got so excited about this section that he carried on jumping up and roaring like a lion at intervals throughout the rest of the show, including during a very dramatic death scene. At the end of the show, after taking their bows, the actors all pretended to be scared of him and ran away to exit the stage.”
Lone gunman in The Jungle Book at Chichester Festival Theatre:
“Front of house spoke to a young boy on the front row filling up a small water pistol. They explained he couldn’t use it at the theatre and he put it away in his mum’s bag. Whether or not he chose to fire it while putting it away is unknown.”
Showing the love in the National Theatre’s Macbeth at the Lowry, Salford
“Monday, October 1, 7.30pm: The Macbeths’ kiss received some wolf whistles and ‘ooohs’ from a large school group in the house.
Tuesday, October 2, 7.30pm: The Macbeth kiss and bum squeeze received a round of applause.
Wednesday, October 3, 7.30pm: During the Macbeth kiss in I.v, an audience member shouted out: ‘Go on, son!’ A high-energy performance with a very engaged and lively house.”
Stage manager: Sian Wiggins
The Miles high club in The Lehman Trilogy at the National Theatre:
“September 21, 7pm: Huge round [of applause] for Babettes Wedding scene. And someone in the audience loudly said ‘Wow’ as the scene finished. During The Twist, Ben Miles looked at the man who had said ‘Wow’ earlier. The man then mouthed ‘Call me’ at Ben. Instant full standing ovation. Much whooping, hollering and bravo-ing. Lovely show.”
Noodles and pants in The Lover at Edinburgh Lyceum:
“Show Report 3: Noodles were dropped on the floor. The dancers managed to avoid them.
Show Report 6: Both pairs of pants were left on the stage in scene 8. Ms Hollinshead threw them offstage as she entered into scene 9. Ms Dove retrieved them.”
A ghostly saxophonist in Effigies of Wickedness at London’s Gate Theatre:
“The situation regarding Mr Cornwell’s ghost has been resolved. It turns out that the Gate isn’t in fact haunted by a saxophone-playing ghoul, it’s just Mr Cornwell’s loop pedal playing the cast’s warm-up on repeat.”
Feeling ashen in A Hundred Words for Snow at London’s Vault Festival:
“Rory almost choked on her dad’s ashes in the penultimate scene.”
A scavenging stage performer in Chutney at the Bunker, London:
“[Isabel] Della-Porta took home M&S steak from stage bin tonight. Has been recommended homemade bearnaise sauce by producer.”
Trouser Trouble in The Belle’s Stratagem at Edinburgh Lyceum:
“Show Report 4: The fan got stuck to Mr O’Rourke’s trousers as he stood up from the chair.
Show Report 9: At the top of Act II during the dance, Ms Roy’s costume got caught on Mr Miller’s costume. Ms Roy was trying to untangle herself but Mr Miller ripped them apart.”
Hair scare in The 39 Steps at Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough:
During an early performance in the run of The 39 Steps this summer, actor Niall Ransome danced a Scottish jig so energetically his wig fell off. He ad-libbed, to huge applause: “Och, I’ve danced my hair off.” It became such a regular occurrence that the show reports started noting when his wig didn’t fall off.
Bell bottom blues at the Mercury Theatre, Colchester:
“The five-minute call for the audience wasn’t heard from the bar, so I asked the staff members to pass me the bell so I could do an announcement myself. A very tall lady snatched the bell from my hands and decided to ring it for a very long time. I was too short to get it from her, so I had to tell her to stop (please). She found this very amusing and thanked me for an incredible night. I rang the bell and made the announcement. The interval ran longer than expected due to the rowdy audience, which I was having a very hard time trying to bring back in the house.”
An invading arachnid at the Watermill, Newbury:
During a performance of Sweet Charity, the deputy stage manager was late with a cue. The show report read: “Hey, big spider!” An enormous spider had crawled across the lighting desk, causing a temporary loss in concentration (or more probably a brief moment of hysteria).
Gordon the budgie in Julie at the National Theatre:
“June 21, 7.30pm: Gordon the budgie was rather vocal post-death this evening…
June 22, 7.30pm: Gordon the budgie was again tweeting throughout Julie’s suicide.
June 23, 2.30pm: Gordon the budgie was treated to his favourite birdseed in his cage this afternoon and as a result was silent. To be monitored.
June 23, 7.30pm: Gordon was tweeting again during Julie’s suicide.
June 25, 7.30pm: Gordon was replaced with a fake budgie this evening. An attentive house and a jolly company.”
Stage manager: Laura Draper
A mechanical mouse at the Oxford Playhouse pantomime
“During this year’s panto opening night, a remote-control mouse whizzed off the front of the stage straight into the lap of a gentleman sitting in the front row.”
The adventures of Marley and Pirate, the Bush theatre cats
“– A tiny black cat showed up around 9pm and Marley seemed to know her. They ran off together for a while and both returned about 10pm.
– Pirate versus till on the narrow cash-up desk ended badly for the till. There is a minor cash discrepancy, which may be due to coins spilling on the floor.
– Pirate and Marley had a slapfight over dinner. Both cats unharmed apart from bruised pride. Morning duty manager please double check tills and around DM desk.”