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The Editor’s View: Like ATG, I’m conflicted over West End food ban

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Alistair Smith
Alistair Smith is editor of The Stage. Having joined the publication on staff in 2004, he has also held the roles of reporter, news editor, opinion editor, deputy editor and print editor at The Stage and has written for publications ranging from The Guardian to Hello! Magazine. He is also the author of two major industry reports (the London Theatre Report and the Theatre Workforce Review) and a founder of the My Theatre Matters! campaign.
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I find myself conflicted when it comes to the issue of banning food in theatres. It is irritating when someone rustles a packet of sweets during a particularly quiet, focused scene, and it must be even worse for the performers.

However, blanket pronouncements on audience behaviour play to all the worst stereotypes of theatre as an elitist art form.

It seems I’m not the only one in a quandary. Producers of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? have banned food during performances at the Ambassador Theatre Group’s Harold Pinter Theatre. That’s quite understandable, given what a spokesman described as the play’s “extremely intense and quiet” moments.

But in an object lesson in spectacularly mixed messages, the theatre is continuing to offer its ‘Ordertorium’ service, which is advertised thus: “Enjoy a cold beverage, ice cream or snack without leaving your seat! Order your drink from the comfort of your seat in the auditorium and a member of our staff will deliver it to you.”

So it seems the theatre wants to sell its cake, but not allow theatregoers to eat it.

My thoughts are with the ushers.

Email your views to alistair@thestage.co.uk

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