Yesterday, I watched a performance of Horrible Histories at the Garrick Theatre and the woman sat next to me was texting on her mobile phone throughout the entire performance. We were on the end of the row and I had to shield one side of my face so as not to be distracted by the light. I couldn’t help but wonder why ushers didn’t tell her to turn it off. More importantly, what example is this setting to her two children who were perfectly well behaved during the whole show?
On Broadway, some theatres give everyone a slip of paper when they enter the auditorium which clearly states mobile phones are not to be used during the performance. And God forbid you do or they will run down the isle like a whippet and shine their torch in your face. I wonder why London theatres don’t implement stronger strategies like these? The tactics used in London theatres obviously aren’t working and so maybe its time to get creative about how and what is done.
At the Bratz Kids Carnival circus/cabaret show at the London Wonderground, the host of the show gave a very nice speech at the beginning of the show about how the tricks they were about to do were dangerous and required a lot of concentration and so could everyone turn off their phones and cameras for just the one hour show, leave technology behind and enjoy the performance. It was a lovely way to enforce the message rather than just an announcement over the tannoy as most theatre shows do. After that, the woman sat directly in front of me took out her mobile phone. Not to turn it off, but to spend five minutes writing (and then editing) an email!
West End star Louise Dearman recently hit the nail on the head when talking about this subject. Imagine you’re in your living room and you turn all the lights off and close the curtains. Then turn your phone on. You’d see the glaring light wouldn’t you? That is exactly what it is like for performers on stage, staring out into a sea of darkness with the occasional glowing face of someone checking their Twitter or Facebook. People think that no one can see them but they can!
Mobile phones aren’t going anywhere any time soon and so this problem is only set to get worse if nothing is done. It only takes one theatre to take action and the rest will follow. Who will be the first to make a change?
West End Wilma