A theatre producer watching a West End show claims he was punched by a fellow audience member after challenging him over the use of a mobile phone during the performance.
Adam Gale, from New York, alleges he was “hauled” out of his seat during the interval of A Christmas Carol at the Old Vic and struck with a closed fist, following an altercation that happened during the first act of the play.
Gale says he had witnessed a woman using her mobile throughout the first act, and had asked her to stop. He eventually sought help from an usher, who intervened.
However, when the first act finished, Gale claims he was approached by the woman’s partner, a male in his 30s, who pulled him from his seat and struck him, while being “egged on” by the female.
Gale said he then asked staff at the theatre to call the police. He said this did not happen, but instead employees tried to calm the situation by talking to both parties individually.
The couple left in the interval, but Gale said he had been left feeling concerned that he could have been attacked on his way home, and was unable to enjoy the rest of the show.
He added that the incident showed why people are afraid to challenge others over poor audience behaviour.
“Things have escalated from rude audience members to people who assault other people,” he said.
“People are constantly complaining about sitting next to someone horrible, and they say they don’t challenge them as they are afraid it will make the situation worse if they ask them to stop,” he added.
Responding to the incident, Old Vic executive director Kate Varah confirmed there had been a “minor grievance between three patrons over the use of a mobile phone” on December 4.
She added: “A Christmas Carol is an exceptionally joyful experience and should be for all members of the audience. It is therefore concerning when theatregoers have an unpleasant time interacting with each other.”
She said staff “spent a good deal of time with the patron affected talking to him about what had happened”.
“He was offered complimentary tickets to return on another evening, a security guard to walk him to the station, or a taxi home. Our team handled the situation professionally and sensitively,” she said.
Varah said mobile phone use was “an issue we all grapple with in our buildings”.
“How to deal with it sensitively and appropriately is an interesting topic that we as an industry should be debating,” she said, adding her front-of-house team “does sterling work each night in ensuring that audiences are safe and supported”. She said this included conflict resolution training.