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Friday, 13 July, 2001, 14:24 GMT 15:24 UK
'Stage rage' affects theatregoers
The Malibran Theatre, Venice
The survey found that audiences are getting more irritating
A new survey by a website has revealed that nine out of 10 theatregoers are irritated by fellow audience members.

Surprisingly, the main source of irritation was not the ubiquitous mobile phone, but the rather more humble sweet wrapper.

Top audience peeves
Sweet wrapper rustling - 79%
Talking and whispering - 69%
Arriving late - 64%
Mobile phone ringing - 59%
Beeping of watches - 47%
The most damning result of the survey was that 92% of theatregoers said they frequently find other audience members irritating, with 84% saying the problem has increased in the past five years.

Despite the increase in impolite audiences, 69% of those surveyed said that they had challenged a fellow audience member about their behaviour.


One anonymous respondent advocates a zero-tolerance policy: "Unfortunately, the best solution to the noisy/obnoxious audience problem - more theatre staff, preferably armed with stun guns - will remain a dream in the current financial climate."

They added: "Don't be afraid to confront people who are ruining your enjoyment - the last time I did this the culprits didn't return after the interval."

It's the quiet unwrapping of sweets that annoys me - no matter how slowly they try to open them, the noise doesn't decrease

Survey respondent
Out of more than 500 people surveyed, 79% said that rustling noise of sweet wrappers was a regular hindrance to their enjoyment of a performance, according to theatrical website

Other irritants included talking and whispering (69%), arriving late (64%), ringing mobile phones (59%), and beeping watches (47%).

"Obviously, some of the points raised in this poll are amusing but the serious point to keep in mind is how easy it is for an evening in the theatre to be spoiled by careless or inconsiderate behaviour," said Terri Paddock, editorial director of

"Several of our users have dubbed this phenomenon 'stage rage' and it seems to be on the rise," Paddock added.

Painfully slow

The only solution may be to ban sweets from theatres altogether, according to scientific research.

Considerate theatregoers who try to stop the irritating rustle caused by unwrapping sweets face an impossible task.

Even the most careful and painfully slow unwrapping fails to reduce the amount of noise produced and only serves to prolong the agony, according to a report presented to the Acoustical Society of America.

As one anonymous surveyee said: "It's the quiet unwrapping of sweets that annoys me. No matter how slowly they try to open them, the noise doesn't decrease.

"It just prolongs the torture for everyone else. It only takes one to spoil it for the entire theatre (or at least an entire tier of a theatre)."

Previous Whatsonstage polls have been quite revealing. A poll in May revealed that many theatregoers are increasingly fed up with the use of TV and pop stars to pull in audiences, many of whom do not perform most nights.

In June, Billy Elliot director Stephen Daldry was favoured by 45% of theatre goers to succeed Trevor Nunn in the role of National Theatre director.

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