Is it ever ok to ‘heckle’ at the theatre?

The Rocky Horror Show has a separate script online, which shows fans different lines they can shout-out from the audience during certain moments of the show, to make it more of an interactive time for hardcore lovers that come back again and again to see it. Also, in pantomime, there are several moments we all know how to respond to, like when we are encouraged to shout “he’s behind you” when someone appears, to which the person on stage will say “oh no he isn’t” and the audience respond “oh yes he is”. It’s moments of fun and comedy that everybody loves.

But, when it comes to serious theatre productions, is it ever acceptable to shout-out from your seat?

Alfie Boe is currently starring as Jean Valjean in the concert version of Les Miserables at the Gielgud Theatre, alongside Michael Ball, Carrie Hope Fletcher and Matt Lucas. He shares the role with John Owen-Jones, who I saw when I went to see the show last week (review here).

Alfie has missed several performances during the run due to illness and last night, according to social media, one fan shouted out “where’s Alfie” during the curtain call, whilst the performers on stage were giving a speech about the charity Children In Need.

After the show, actress Carrie Hope Fletcher tweeted Never have I been so outraged by a single audience member’s actions than I was tonight. You know who you are and I hope you feel humiliated and ashamed. #Seething“.

Several fans who were in the audience, gave insight in to what went on. One twitter user saying “I was sat next to her, she was exceedingly drunk! To the extent that she was tweeting Alfie Boe calling him a c**t for not performing. What a disgrace she is!” Another user said “What was even more shocking was her shouting abuse at Michael at the stage door so much that security staff came.”

Sadly theatre etiquette is getting worse and worse. It is no longer the classy night out it was many years ago, where you wouldn’t even know who was performing in the cast but you booked just to see the show itself.

In the age of social media, people feel more connected than ever to performers and follow their every movement online. This can make them feel like they own them and are somehow entitled to see them onstage or meet them at the stage door after.

Theatre performers are real people who sometimes get sick and need to take time off. And like one twitter user said “If that ignorant fool wanted to see an Alfie show, then they should have gone to see an Alfie show”.

But as for heckling, unless you are at a performance where it is actively encouraged, keep it to yourself because no one else wants to hear it.

West End Wilma


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