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Three quarters think theatre staff should do more to combat phone use

Phone use in theatres is regularly highlighted as a disturbance to audiences and performers. Photo: Shutterstock
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Nearly theatre quarters of respondents to a poll by The Stage do not think front of house staff are doing enough to challenge phone use during performances.

In the poll, which was hosted on The Stage’s website, 512 people said staff were not doing enough to combat phone use, while 179 people disagreed, voting that enough action was being taken.

The results follow an incident at the Old Vic theatre in London during which a producer was allegedly punched for confronting a fellow audience member over phone use.

Adam Gale said he had witnessed a woman using her mobile throughout the first act of A Christmas Carol, 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 companion, a male in his 30s, who pulled him from his seat and struck him.

He claimed that the incident showed why people were afraid to challenge others over poor audience behaviour.

Old Vic executive director Kate Varah said that “how to deal with [such issues] sensitively and appropriately is an interesting topic that we as an industry should be debating,” 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.

Mobile phone use has been a long running issue in theatre, with actor Benedict Cumberbatch inspiring a campaign against the behaviour in 2015, after he urged audiences going to watch him in Hamlet at the Barbican in London not to film him on their mobiles.

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