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Mobile phone use and eating during performances in theatres (your views, December 21)

Photo: StockLite/Shutterstock.com
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Regarding your poll on phone use in theatres, I am the artistic director of a company that makes and tours theatre for families. We are heartbroken to see many parents using their phones during performances.

This behaviour reinforces the idea that being on a phone at any time is allowed. Adults are disengaged from the production and children are denied the shared experience of watching it with their parents, making it difficult for them to discuss the show together afterwards.

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

Phone users seem unaware that they are lighting up others around them with their screen. Recently, I saw a dad ordering a pair of trousers during a show, then swearing because his payment wouldn’t go through. This should be an hour to escape and be with your child.

We now print a freesheet programme with a very visual call to switch off. I would be really keen to find an industry-wide solution.

Niki McCretton
Artistic director, Stuff and Nonsense
Via thestage.co.uk

As a front-of-house worker I admit that the use of mobile phones is not only one of the biggest problems we deal with, but one of the hardest.

We do not have the power to delete recordings or confiscate phones – if we did, it might stop people filming or using their phones during a performance. Not only is it disrespectful to the rest of the audience, it is extremely rude to the actors who can see people on their phones in the auditorium.

I don’t understand how grown adults can’t cope without using their phones for an hour. If you would rather watch your phone than the performance, let someone else have your ticket.

Rachel Martin
Via thestage.co.uk

I can’t believe anyone voted ‘yes’. I’ve seen frequent phone use in theatres and never witnessed anyone being asked to stop using it. Beyond the quick message at the start to switch off phones, no more is ever said or done.

Given the regularity of phone sounds during performances, I reckon those who voted ‘yes’ think nothing of keeping their phone switched on and using it during the show.

Roisin Moriarty
Via thestage.co.uk

How can staff deal with mobile phone use if the user is anywhere except the edge of the seating area? Theatre seating is so tightly packed that a member of staff would have to disrupt more people than the mobile phone user, just to tell them to stop disrupting other people.

How about theatregoers grow a backbone and challenge phone use themselves, rather than expect staff to disrupt people even further?

Mark J Paterson
Via thestage.co.uk

Theatre producer ‘punched’ after asking audience member to stop using phone

Eating during performances

I don’t eat during shows (‘West End boss: We must cater for snackers’, December 14), but many people head straight to a show after leaving work, leaving no time to eat an evening meal. They’re not bovine, greedy or disgusting – they’re just hungry. For many people, picking up a sandwich on the way and eating it at the theatre is tempting.

Nica Burns: ‘Theatre must accommodate people who want to eat snacks’

If theatre wants to keep its audiences, it needs to evolve with them. There is obviously a demand for food at the theatre – and the misplaced non-eating etiquette, which has only recently come into being, needs to be squashed in order to maintain the appeal of live performance and keep it open to everyone.

A different solution would be to have a specific seating area for those who want to consume food, similar to the old smoking and non-smoking sections.

Natalie Scott
Via thestage.co.uk

Theatres don’t have to accommodate the gastronomic whims of people who can’t spend an hour and a half at a time without feeding their faces. Once, that would have been called ‘gluttony’. After factoring in the cost of the ticket to begin with, this is an overtly ridiculous first-world problem.

Theatres don’t have to allow drinks and snacks into the auditorium or tolerate mobile phone addiction. They choose to – just as they could choose to educate and cultivate a culture of respect among audiences, if they wanted to.

They could choose to care that those of us who pay ever more money to attend a live performance may have our experience marred by the chomping around us, courtesy of the snack bar in the foyer.

Frank Browne
Via thestage.co.uk

Quotes of the week

Stephen Beresford. Photo: Shutterstock

At a time when cinema is struggling, and there’s a crisis with TV taking all the interesting and creative stories, it’s fascinating to see people turning up for the theatre. Theatre is like that character Lady Bertram, in Mansfield Park, who is always lying on a sofa saying, “I’m so terribly ill, I’m going to die,” but never actually expires of anything.
Playwright Stephen Beresford (ES Magazine)

“[Actresses] should certainly encounter fewer difficulties, but the lack of value is still there. There’ll be no real changes until women have more power and that won’t necessarily come as a result of this.”
Kathleen Turner on the impact of the Weinstein revelations for female performers

“There’s no rule book for being an AD (or if there is, no one’s given it to me yet). But if there was, I hope it would include ‘Have the courage to reverse a decision.’ Hats off to @vicfeatherstone
Theatr Clwyd artistic director Tamara Harvey on the Royal Court’s decision to stage Rita, Sue and Bob Too (Twitter)

“It will run for several years, but we won’t know for two to three, when it gets into the hands of the public. Then it will be beyond marketing and publicity, and much will depend on things like how often people come back. Then it’s down to the brilliance of the show.”
Cameron Mackintosh on Hamilton (Sunday Times)

“Any good story with interesting characters is like a feast for an actor. You make it up, you use your imagination and you fill out what hasn’t been written, because you have to have a reason for your behaviour. It’s in that process that I revel.”
Glenn Close (Entertainment Weekly)

“I used to watch films and television obsessively. I didn’t like going to school because I was so bullied and I would do everything I could to avoid it. That became my escapism – and my education. Being transported to other worlds. So the idea of becoming an actor was the simplest decision I ever made.”
Actor Gwendoline Christie (Times)

“In rehearsals, Greg (Doran) has a little bell and if anyone goes on too long then he gives it a ring. Mike (Poulton) got it most of all. Because he’s full of not just information about Robert’s (Harris) books but also the historical facts of this period.”
Actor Christopher Saul on rehearsing Imperium at RSC (Stratford Herald)

What you said on Facebook

About Nica Burns’ comments on allowing audiences to eat snacks during shows…

People can eat snacks in the interval or before the show, if there is no interval. It’s disrespectful to performers, let alone other audience members.
Pia Gronbaek Pedersen

Theatres are for listening to, engaging with and hopefully enjoying performances. If the actors were mumbling their words or shouting their lines, there would be complaints aplenty. Theatres should implement a ‘no food and drink’ policy in the auditorium. Talkers and mobile phone users need to realise that they’re not at home in front of the TV.
Steve Hunt

It’s no wonder theatre is dying with these attitudes: theatre needs to adapt to the way people consume their choice of entertainment and Nica Burns is at least addressing it. Get rid of all the nonsense ‘etiquette’ and new audiences will come through the door. Let people eat, drink and enjoy the show the way they want to. If I’ve paid more than £50 for ticket and want to eat snacks, I will. If you’re disturbed by someone rustling a crisp packet during a show, it can’t be up to much.
Kash Arshad

About audience members using mobile phones in theatres…

Rather than trying to put ushers in tricky situations, which clearly seems to be the case when they do try to stop such people, why not do as some restaurants do and have a signal killer in the theatre? Then no one would have to face abuse for doing their job and it would take the matter out of everyone’s hands.
Manveer Sahota

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