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Audiences banned from eating during West End show

Imelda Staunton will star in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in the West End
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Audience members have been banned from eating during performances of West End play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, “out of consideration for the actors and fellow audience members”.

The Edward Albee play stars Imelda Staunton and Conleth Hill, and opened for previews at the Harold Pinter Theatre on February 22.

In an email to ticket bookers seen by The Stage, Ambassador Theatre Group – which operates the Harold Pinter – said no food would be allowed to be eaten during the show.

“Out of consideration for the actors and for fellow audience members, we ask that no food be consumed during the performance,” it said.

The email added that food purchased at bars in the theatre may be eaten before the show, or during one of its two breaks. Drinks will be allowed into the auditorium in plastic cups.

Latecomers are also not being admitted during the performance, with those who leave the auditorium not able to return until an interval.

A spokesman for the producers, Sonia Friedman Productions, told The Stage that the decision had been taken due to sections of the show being “extremely intense and quiet”.

During a recent interview, Staunton said she would approve outlawing food in theatres, suggesting it distracts from the live performance.

“I don’t know why people can’t engage in just one thing. I don’t understand this obsession with having to eat or drink something at every moment of the day,” she said.

ATG runs an at-seat food and drink ordering service, Ordertorium, at several of its West End and regional venues, including the Harold Pinter. This will still be in operation for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?.

Last year, producer Richard Jordan criticised a West End audience after fellow theatregoers ate McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets during a production of Doctor Faustus at the Duke of York’s Theatre.

Jordan said other members of the same audience were eating popcorn and crisps, describing it as the worst he had ever encountered.

His comments were later condemned by the show’s star Kit Harington, who said he had not found the audiences disruptive.‪

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