Richard Jordan’s remarks for The Stage have been branded elitist by those wanting to encourage younger audiences into the theatre, but many theatregoers agree with him
Theatre critics and professionals have accused “commercial” fans of “ruining” the audience experience by eating junk food, talking loudly and taking photos.
Producer Richard Jordan sparked controversy after declaring Doctor Faustus, starring Game of Thrones favourite Kit Harington, the “worst West End audience he had ever encountered”. Writing for The Stage, he described his “heart sinking” at the sight of a couple tucking into a McDonald’s takeaway, followed by “the most blatant use of mobile phones ever witnessed”.
While some echoed his demand for a “model of conduct that does not interfere with other theatregoers’ enjoyment”, others accused him of pushing an elitist attitude that risks discouraging younger audiences who have previously found theatre inaccessible, particularly with his description of the “rude” audience members as “Game of Thrones fans” without citing any evidence that they were.
Jordan later told The Telegraph that while he does want to “encourage new audiences”, his disappointment came from theatregoers who “did not seem to care about anyone else’s enjoyment but their own”. His remarks were supported by Daily Mail columnist Baz Bamigboye, who described the behaviour of audiences as “increasingly intolerable” and cited an example of someone unpacking their shopping bags during Jesse Eisenberg’s The Spoils.
Theatre conduct has been a hot topic across the entertainment industry of late, heightened by Benedict Cumberbatch begging fans to stop recording his Hamlet at the Barbican last year after explaining that the distracting red lights were “mortifying”. Then there is Richard Gresham’s extensive Theatre Charter, which outlines how he believes audiences should behave and encourages disgruntled theatregoers are to sign it if they too have “had enough with bad behaviour”.
One suggestion Jordan does make is for the big draw stars of classical theatre revivals such as Hamlet and Doctor Faustus to appear on stage before the show begins and ask audiences how they would like them to behave. But for the moment, the issue of to clap or not to clap, to eat or not to eat and to take photos or not to take photos remains divisive.