[img]http://hits.guardian.co.uk/b/ss/guardiangu-feeds/1/H.20.3/96258?ns=guardian&pageName=Theatre+audiences+should+never+be+a+sleeping+partner%3AArticle%3A1308596&ch=Stage&c3=GU.co.uk&c4=Theatre%2CStage%2CCulture+section&c6=Lyn+Gardner&c7=09-Nov-24&c8=1308596&c9=Article&c10=Blogpost&c11=Stage&c13=&c25=Theatre+blog&c30=content&h2=GU%2FStage%2Fblog%2FTheatre+blog[/img]Using your mobile makes you a pariah in the auditorium. Isn't it about time those who fall asleep had a similar wakeup call?
There's been a great deal of tutting in recent months about noisy and disruptive audiences, particularly in the West End. But when was being half-comatose in the theatre regarded as acceptable behaviour? Indeed, there appear to be some people who are convinced that sleeping is what theatre is actually for. As Mark Shenton has already pointed out, last Thursday's performance of Mrs Warren's Profession at Richmond theatre reverberated to the gentle sound of snoring. The lights had barely gone out before the woman beside me slumped. She stayed that way for most of the show.
Theatres clearly have responsibilities and obligations towards audiences – at the very least to keep them safe and offer something in return for the price of a ticket – but surely audiences have responsibilities, too. We like to think of theatre as a collaboration between theatremakers and audience members, but if so then we in the audience can only be as good as the show allows us to be. Maybe this production of Mrs Warren's Profession just didn't allow us to be good enough. I'm inclined to think so, but clearly some of my colleagues disagree.
I have never seen anybody slumbering during a performance at the Theatre Royal Stratford East or standing up in the pit at The Globe, for instance. The dynamic of the relationship and nature of the collaboration keeps the audience alert. I'm not suggesting that every piece of work at those two theatres is fantastic, but I think that audiences (often younger than average) at both those places always take their responsibilities seriously, if often very noisily.
I can't understand why talking in the theatre – possibly because the show has surprised or shocked you, something that used to be perfectly acceptable in our theatre culture – is seen as rude, while being completely unresponsive because you're asleep is considered fine. Some people seem to think that the fact that they've paid for their ticket gives them the right to use their seat however they want, including as a substitute bed. In fact having somebody asleep next to you is no less disruptive than having somebody texting. It creates an intrusion and sucks the energy out of the event.
You increasingly hear of actors stepping out of character to berate those who have forgotten to turn off their mobile phones, but do you ever hear about them stepping forward to point a finger at row D because everyone sitting there has fallen asleep? Maybe they should. Though on reflection, it seems unlikely: if Row D is asleep, then the cast know in their heart of hearts that they bear some of the responsibility.
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Guardian: Theatre audiences should never be a sleeping partner
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