After hearing a mobile phone ringing, Kevin Spacey reprimanded a member of the public during a performance of Richard III in 2011. Likewise, the late Richard Griffiths is famously told an audience member to leave the auditorium mid-performance, after hearing the sound of a ringtone.
According to a new survey unveiled by Ticketmaster earlier this week, most theatre-goers admit to carrying their phones and feeling the need to check them during plays. Titled State of Play: Theatre UK, the study has revealed a new “code of conduct” deemed acceptable by modern audiences, with visitors admitting to their phones for messages, taking photographs, and even tweeting.
The research was conducted online among 1,500 people who had been to the theatre at least once in the past three years. Over 25% of those surveyed admitted to having checked their phones during performances at least once. The study indicated that 25-34-year-olds were the group most guilty of checking their phones while a performance is in progress.
Social media has a significant presence alongside professional reviews. Close to one in four (24%) "tweet" about the performance they are about to see or have already seen, increasing to nearly half (47%) of 16-19 year old attendees.
Deputy editor of The Stage, Alistair Smith, commented in The Telegraph that in his opinion, this change in public opinion is an “unintended consequence” of the industry's drive for broader audiences.
“I think that for quite a long time, probably at least a decade, it’s been gradually getting less formal,” he said, “Instead of a narrow demographic, you are getting people from a wider range and all walks of life which is undoubtedly a good thing.”
“But I think it maybe brought with it the unintended consequences of people not knowing the old rules.”