There is a discussion taking place in the press and on Facebook about bad behaviour in theatre as a result of what happened after a couple brought in some Chicken McNuggets to a performance of Dr Faustus starring the Game of Thrones actor Kit Harrington. The result was reports in The Times, the Telegraph, the Guardian and The Stage as well as the on line comment on Facebook by outraged regular theatre goers. Critics seldom come across such behaviour. First night, press night audiences have their funny little ways which can be annoying but eating takeaways is not among them. When one stages a commercial play with a hot television star the chances are one will attract an audience unaccustomed to going to the theatre, but one almost certainly accustomed to going to the cinema where munching ones way through nachos and pop corn and heaven knows what is a matter of course. Theatre managements are determined to make money on the side and some theatres are offering eats of their own which are delivered to one's seat, although they are not quite as noxious as a McNugget. So what does one do? Offended audience members could complain to the ushers, but sometimes the complaint causes more upset all round than the bad behaviour. One is creating a scene, and those committing the offence may well take offence whatever you do - complain to them direct or to an usher. The scene can escalate into something quite unpleasant. The actors could, if the scent of grease reaches them, stop the show as some have done when mobile phones rang out. Warnings could be issued at the start that going out at the interval and coming back with burgers bought off premises is not allowed, but since the merry trill of phones still echo from time to time the trouble with warnings is that they seem to go in one ear and out the other. Familiarity has bred contempt. Purchasers could be refused re-admission and taking anything into the auditorium could be banned, although that would require setting up decent cloakroom facilities which most theatres lack. One theatre director suggested shining a spotlight on the offenders, which might embarass them. Harrington insisted audiences had been wellbehaved, as indeed the majority may. The offenders are not necessarily young, by the way. Age is no barrier to anti social behaviour. One National Theatre staff person, who shall be nameless to spare their blushes, said that audiences there had been well behaved when they came to see Daniel Radcliffe in Man and Superman, which is surprising since the star was Ralph Fiennes and bad behaviour when Mr Radcliffe failed to appear could have been expected. Shakespeare's audiences, of course, noshed their way through the play. The groundlings did not sit throughout in enraptured silence, while the toffs in the boxes were anything but quiet. However some kind of code of conduct should be observed - or do we just have to live with it? Times, as everyone is well aware at the moment, are a-changing and not necessarily for the better. Theatres should stop providing food to take into the auditorium, which some do, improve their facilities and deal with the offenders politely but firmly. They could even stop people taking drinks in with them in plastic cups, another loathsome practice. Oh for the days when all people complained about was the boxes of chocolates opened amid much rustling especially at matinees. They seem to have disappeared. Some changes are for the better.
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