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Time for the disrespectful use of mobile devices in theatres to stop?

Theatre MasksMobile phones obviously have their uses, but in a way they have become an addiction. If you are anything like me, when I leave the house there are usually three items I check that I have: Wallet, car keys and mobile phone. Years ago it was two, car keys in one pocket and wallet in the other.

Mobile phones, and the variations that have evolved between mobiles and computers, such as tablets and ipads obviously have their, dare I say essential, uses. Mobile devices are not just for communicating with our friends and business contacts, but they are also for finding out what is going around the world at the touch of a button.

The world of social media has expanded incredibly in recent years, we may not be as ‘social’ in the ‘real world’, but the online social world just keeps on growing. You only have to go to any airport and see the passengers, who once off their flight are switching on their phones. Likewise, walk down any high street or shopping centre, and countless people are on their mobiles. The addiction is set. Just as well there isn’t a government tax on the use of mobiles – not yet anyway!

With their mobile somewhere about their person, every week many people head off to a place of entertainment, with many thousands going to a theatre. Some people go to the theatre straight from work, while others have to travel to see a show, the mobile device will be along for the ride.

There are a few places where it is generally accepted that you can’t use your mobile: such as, while travelling on a plane, filling your car with fuel on a petrol station forecourt and while being served at the post office. Note the absence of ‘theatre’ in that short list, but also note that while the first two are for safety reasons, the request to not use your mobile phone at a post office counter is one of ‘respect’. The person serving you wants your full undivided attention, and you doubtless want theirs.

Not a week seems to go by when someone in a theatre audience gets singled out for using their mobile device during a performance. Surely it is about time this nonsense of the addictive use of mobile devices, while a theatrical performance is on, stopped. It isn’t just mobile phone users, it is also those typing away on their ipad/tablet/laptop.

If anyone has something more important that they need to be doing, then quite simply get up and leave, and don’t come back into the theatre until you can leave your ‘electronic device’ in your pocket or bag. Alternatively, don’t go to the theatre to see a show in the first place.

Why is this a problem? Quite simply it is a matter of respect and courtesy, and if you are reading this and don’t understand that, then read no further…

Respect and courtesy should be shown to others in the audience who have paid money to go and see a show and not be needlessly disturbed by others around them, either with the noise of using an electronic device or by the light from it. Likewise, respect and courtesy to those on the stage who are trying to concentrate on giving the audience a great performance.

How can the offenders be stopped?
Yes this is down to the individuals to actually show some respect to others, but at times this seems to be beyond some people, they cannot see or think beyond their ‘addiction’.

Surely it is time for theatre owners to make it clear that the use of mobile devices during a performance WILL result in that person being removed from the performance. Yes, it would be disruptive on a few occasions, but once word gets around that IF you use your mobile you are likely to be kicked out then I am sure there would be fewer people doing it.

Print it on the tickets, and notices in theatre foyers. Notice on the safety screen immediately before the performance. There is next to NOTHING at the moment informing theatregoers that they shouldn’t use their mobiles during a performance. Why not?

Theatre in London’s West End is generally recognised as being of a high standard in comparison with anywhere in the world. The interruption of performances by mobile users simply detracts from the standards being set on stage. Audiences have to put up with munching, crunching, sweet wrapper rustling etc, but please can we stop this unnecessary use of mobiles during performances, and show some respect to others in the audience and also to the performers on stage.

‘Mobile’ users – please think and show some respect. Theatre owners, it is time to act!

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  • Neil Cheesman

    First becoming involved in an online theatre business in 2005 and launching londontheatre1.com in September 2013. Neil writes reviews and news articles, and has interviewed over 150 actors and actresses from the West End, Broadway, film, television, and theatre. Follow Neil on Twitter @LondonTheatre1

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1 thought on “Time for the disrespectful use of mobile devices in theatres to stop?”

  1. Well done. About time something was done about inconsiderate theatre goers. I have often wondered why some people bother to attend. They obviously have some trivia to see to rather than enjoy the performance. It is an absolute insult to the performers on stage and to the audience around them. Could there not be a device which imobolises mobiles etc for the duration of the performance. I cannot see the theatre staff enforcing this as they do not enforce the use of cameras. I pray each time I go to the theatre that I do not get an inconsiderate idiot near me.

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