Should actors break character to confront bad behaviour in theatre?

Yesterday, Glenn Close became the latest actor to break character during a theatre performance, to tell an audience member to stop taking pictures.

Glenn Close is currently reprising her role of the iconic Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard on Broadway, a role which she also played last year in London. According to news reports, Glenn stopped the show during her famous song With One Look to tell an audience member to stop taking pictures, proclaiming “this isn’t a photoshoot” before starting the song again from the beginning.

Patti Lupone is most famous for on stage outbursts like this. Back in 2009, during a performance of Gypsy, Patti stopped the show during the finale Rose’s Turn to scream “Stop taking pictures right now. You heard the announcement, who do you think you are? I won’t continue if they’re taking pictures, get them out”.

More recently, whilst performing in Shows For Days, Patti saw a woman who was using her phone constantly and walked over to her, took the phone out of her hands and gave it to someone backstage. Later on, when talking to a news reporter she said “I feel bad for those people who come to have a theatrical experience and it gets ruined”.

I applaud these people who break character in order to help ensure the rest of the audience don’t have their experienced ruined. Theatre staff can’t always see people on their phones, or get to them to tell them to stop during the performance and so sometimes an actor stopping the show can be the only way. But, this also means the audience have their concentration of the performance they are watching broken which isn’t particularly positive.

So what do you think? Should actors just keep quiet, ignore these problems and just get on with their job, or should more actors be encouraged to do things like this and shame the audiences members (or have them evicted from the show) so that eventually, one day, people may actually abide by the rules of not using your phone during a performance.

As Patti Lupone so perfectly put it “who do you think you are?”. Why do some people think they are the exception to the rule and that it is perfectly fine to behave in that way?

Let me know your thoughts on social media Facebook Twitter or you can email me

Another blog about mobile phones in theatre