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Kit Harington: Prejudice against ‘responsive’ audiences threatens to kill theatre

Doctor Faustus star Kit Harington has leapt to the defence of young theatregoers, claiming that prejudice against “energised and responsive” audiences could kill theatre for good.

The actor hit back against producer Richard Jordan, who complained in The Stage that audience behaviour at a recent performance of Doctor Faustus left him “despairing” [1].

In his column, Jordan described people around him eating McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets, taking pictures and talking to each other throughout the play – and complained it left him unable to hear the words being spoken on stage.

But Harrington, who led the cast of Doctor Faustus for two and a half months in the West End, said he did not think his audiences had been ever been disrespectful “in the slightest”.

Responding to Jordan’s criticisms, Harington told The Guardian [2]: “I am afraid that if the theatre is going to die of anything it will be from exactly this type of stereotyping and prejudice aimed towards a new and younger generation of theatregoers.”

He also claimed that during the play’s entire run he heard only one mobile phone ring in the auditorium.

“Of course pictures were occasionally taken, as unfortunately cannot be avoided in any audience anywhere today, but on the whole it was not a huge amount and definitely not off-putting as a performer,” he said.

He continued: “I found our audiences to be hugely enthusiastic, energised and responsive. I can’t think of a greater support I’ve had as an actor on the stage.”

Jordan’s column has also been criticised by Camden People’s Theatre executive director Amber Massie-Blomfield [3], who said it was part of a “troubling trend of ‘audience shaming’ that does nothing at all to edify our industry”.

The Editor’s View: Theatre etiquette is confusing [4]