Monday, August 03, 2009

Bouncers for Boozy West End Theatres

First published on www.londonist.com

West End theatres are employing security firms to keep control over rowdy audiences. Overdoing the pre-show and interval drinks, boisterous and obnoxious behaviour and Renaissance-era licentiousness in the stalls are causing great unhappiness to the actors and theatre staff.


Getting sexy when the houselights go down, relieving themselves in the aisles, taking photos and being drunken nuisances is so common now, the security staff already in place at hen night favourites such as Mama Mia! are just resigned to slurring, shouting and boozy misdemeanours.

Ironically, tickets are cheap in order to lure in first time theatre-goers. And package deals for big groups deliberately appeal to hen nights, birthday parties and outings for which the play is just a warm-up for further rowdiness. Theatres need bums on seats – but alas, these bums are turning out to be exactly the kind that need to be kicked out.

Banning alcohol in the auditoriums is one solution offered by playwright Ronald Harwood, but we foresee it could backfire like cheap ticket offers: intervals are usually 15 minutes maximum and for a determined hen party, that’s five tequila shots each before the bell goes. No drinks in auditoriums in these cases would not be taken as a ‘go slow’ suggestion, it would be taken as a challenge.

Perhaps the best solution is for West End shows to just give up after the first half and let audiences run riot all over the seats for the second half. They’re not interested in the ending, the performers already know how it turns out, so while the Bacchanal rages in the stalls and circle, the performers could retreat to well-stocked dressing rooms, Radio 4 and a nice cup of tea until time for curtains, at which point they can bow to the oblivious audience and go home for an early night, and everybody, box office included, is happy. Ish.

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