Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

It's a Riot in the West End Stalls; Culture Comment

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

It's a Riot in the West End Stalls; Culture Comment

Article excerpt

Byline: Kieron Quirke

LAST night, I went to the theatre, looking for trouble. The standard of London theatregoers' behaviour is apparently deteriorating. Where once the rustling of sweets was frowned upon, newspapers now carry reports of anarchy in the stalls. Pissing, fighting and extreme fondling are all on the charge sheet, and in response certain West End playhouses are now employing bouncers.

I've been reviewing theatre and opera for six years and have never encountered anything half so exciting. Desperate to see this new yobbery, I bought a cheap ticket for a show where the audience has been compared to "a bear pit", Dirty Dancing. Ironically, I got to my seat to find they'd put me in a corner.

Scanning the crowd, I tried to predict how things would flare up and between whom. No evidence of gang activity in the audience. Little to suggest how factions would divide in the event of a rumpus. Women against Men would mean massive numerical advantage for the females. Similarly, Bottle Blondes v Rest of the World would be a one-sided affair.

Alas, things failed to kick off. I got to see a lot clapping, a bit of arm-waving but unless someone caught a bingo wing in the eye, no bodily injury.

I did however witness a disappointed-looking bouncer. He must have been a bouncer -- I've never seen a theatre usher so unlikely to dance a rhumba.

His presence, if nothing else, showed there might be more to the reports than silly-season publicity. My problem is I can't help finding the whole idea of anti-social theatre rather fun.

An example. The West End's current production of A Little Night Music -- Stephen Sondheim's genteel musical -- recently saw a punter stand up and urinate by the stage: an action so appalling, it's practically theatre in itself.

After decades of Lloyd Webber in the charts, a Sondheim show could finally be said to have produced a Number One. …

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