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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 September, 2004, 15:39 GMT 16:39 UK
Spacey attacks rude theatregoers
Kevin Spacey
Spacey is directing his first play as artistic director of the Old Vic
Actor Kevin Spacey has attacked audiences who allow their mobile phones to ring during a theatre performance, saying visitors should learn to behave.

As artistic director of London's Old Vic theatre he now personally issues a warning to his audiences to switch off their phones and not to eat sweets.

He told BBC Radio 4's Front Row programme that people that refused "shouldn't come" to the theatre.

He said people should respect the code of behaviour expected of theatregoers.

"I don't think people take those things seriously," he told Front Row.

"That's why mobile phones go off in the theatre, and that's why people open candy bars thinking if they open it slowly it will be less annoying than if they open it fast.

'Phone-free zone'

"My answer is that I say to each audience 'Don't!'. You have to respect the fact there is some degree of behaviour that we expect in the theatre and we're going to demand it at the Old Vic.

They had an incident at the National where the actor asked the audience member whose phone had gone off six times to leave the theatre
Kevin Spacey

"It's a phone-free zone. We don't want them ringing and we certainly don't want them ringing and people ignoring them pretending that it's not theirs."

He has personally been telling people not to use mobile phones or eat sweets during a performance and plans to put out a recorded message warning for future audiences.

"My feeling is if people don't know how to behave they shouldn't come."

Spacey is currently directing the play Cloaca, his first since taking over at the Old Vic and has himself made a point of embarrassing audience members whose phones go off.

"Tell them we're busy," he told the owner of a ringing mobile during a London performance of The Iceman Cometh.

"I've been to performances when they've gone off - they just had a hilariously reported incident at the National - at Alan Bennett's History Boys - where the actor asked the audience member whose phone had gone off six times to leave the theatre," he told Front Row.

Back to top

Do you agree that mobile phones and rustling sweets ruin a theatre production? Have you had a good or bad experience at the theatre due to other people's actions?

Kevin Spacey's comments are too true. Why people leave their mobile phones on in the theatre is beyond me as it affects the other audience members as well as the actors. Being involved in a theatre myself, it is terribly annoying to hear someone who has paid to come and see a show have a conversation during a performance. The art of sweet unwrapping is also a bugbear of mine. Having been to see a production recently where, during a silent and moving scene someone decided to open a very noisy sweet wrapper in the row behind me, I was thoroughly annoyed and distracted. All I can say is that I hope people finally hear the message Kevin's trying to get across...if they can hear over their phones and sweet wrappers anyway!
Ellie, Newcastle, UK

Unfortunately, we are bringing up a generation who actually believe they can't do without their phone, even for a couple of hours. I train 16-19 year-olds, and getting them to switch off phones during lessons is a daily battle.
Gary, Birmingham UK

I went to see Robert Lyndsey in Richard the third at the Savoy, years ago. On the way in, I passed the tuck shop and bought a box of Maltesers. The complaints we got in the interval! Not only about opening the box but have you ever tried sucking Maltesers? By the time you get to the third one that's it - you're crunching. So, was I to blame? Well the theatre was selling these on the way in so what am I supposed to do? There is a revenue issue here and also a degree of responsibility.
David, Hitchin

It¿s bad enough at the cinema, but at least there it can't break the actor's concentration. Why on earth does anyone think it's acceptable to eat during a 2-3 hour film or show anyway? It's not as if you're going to starve in that time. However, it's going to be hard to stamp out eating if theatres and cinemas are selling the food in the foyer (at over-inflated prices). For phones, there's no excuse. No one needs to be contactable 100% of the time. And don't even get me started on people who insist on talking...
Alan Bickerstaff, Swannington, England

Sweets don't HAVE to be noisy. Soft sweets in silent wrapping should be ok, shouldn't it? I don't think I've ever come across a situation where someone has obviously left their phone on so that they can have a conversation during a performance. Maybe one or two who have clearly forgotten to turn it off, yes. If there are so many of these pathologically selfish people out there (and I accept that maybe one in a million really are that self-centred), why isn't there one comment here from one of them, saying why they do it?
Gray, Bristol, UK

I totally agree with Kevin Spacey, as an actor myself, when you enter a theatre, you enter another world, you must respect that world and the wishes of the people who are in it. I have performed myself in a theatre when someone's mobile phone has rung continuously - it is so frustrating and off-putting, especially when you have to remember lines.
Sebastian J. Brook, London

Why is it that people nowadays go to the cinema or indeed theatre and feel the desperate urge to stuff their faces? 2 hours is not too long to go without food or to have their phones off.
Ben, London, UK

You tell 'em Kev. It's sheer ignorance and indicative of the endemic lack of manners and indifference to other peoples enjoyment that a lot of people show today.
Christian Roussel, Great Britan

My worst experience was when a visitor from China was having the whole play translated for her. An American lady who was sat in front of them screamed "Will you shut up, I'm concentrating!" Needless to say the American was on her moblie at the time!
Sarah, Birmingham

I think the improvements(?) and availability of home and family entertainment have influenced how we conduct ourselves in public performances. The remote control on the DVD/Video player is commonly put to use when someone wants to nip to the loo or answer their own phone. Just rewind and watch the bit you missed. However, at the cinema and theatre people continue this expectation. It's just downright rude. Well done, Mr Spacey.
Graeme, Hexham, UK

Coughing, rustling, fidgeting, commenting, questioning, asserting, exclaiming, shuffling, unwrapping, slurping, chewing, gnashing, choking, grinding and phoning are all unacceptable alternatives to just sitting still and quietly watching a movie or a play. I don't go to movies anymore because all of the above have got out of hand. People are pigs.
Andrew, London

It's about time. Someone even took a call halfway through a christening I was at a couple of years ago. Although I'm not condoning this, people do forget sometimes, but to leave a phone on or to take a call is arrogant and irresponsible.
Jason, Leeds

Spacey is spot on. Phones, popcorn, sweets, snogging and canoodling should all be banned from cinemas as well as theatres. If people want to do those things they should rent the video and watch at home.
Paul, London

There is nothing more annoying than being sat watching a play/film that you've been looking forward to and some inconsiderate moron sitting behind you slurping his or her drink, rustling through their popcorn, opening sweets, whispering loudly, and then to top it all their phone rings. What gets me is they seem to think it's okay and everybody does this.They should be made to leave the theatre with a spot light shining on them as they walk out.
David P Baron, Cumbria

Quite why anyone would want to text or hold a telephone conversation during their favourite concert/production is beyond belief - perhaps it should be known as 'premeditated stupidity'.
Teddy McDonald, Gloucestershire

I have had some people say that they need to leave their phones on because they are a) expecting an important call, or b) in case of emergency at home, office, etc. If there is the possibility of an emergency, or if a call is expected, then why go out in the first place? Isn't it better to stay home and attend to such things, rather than annoy and potentially ruin a theatrical experience for the people around you?
Katharine Short, Sydney, Australia

Its about time theatres used signal-blocking. Its fairly simple to do - to create a 'Faraday Cage' by placing foil in the wall decorations. I've been in auditoriums where no signal is available inside the building - its a great relief. It even catches people who intended to turn off their phones, but forgot. As for sweets, or crisp packets, or people chatting (as if they are sat in thier own lounge at home) - yes, that can ruin the experience too.
Fred, Manchester, England

Kevin is absolutely right. People are paying hard-earned cash for tickets to these shows and have a right to properly enjoy them. Noise in the auditorium is not only distracting for the audience but also the actors and can impair both the enjoyment and the quality of performance. Offenders should be publicly shamed if this is the only way to make them learn.
Christopher Hart, Newcastle, UK

You are so right, Mr Spacey! I was at the revival of Jesus Christ Superstar at the Lyceum in 1996 when a mobile went off just as Christ was being hoisted on the cross at the end! The offending phone owner answered the phone and had a chat until several irate theatregoers managed to wrestle the phone off her! Theatres should most definitely be "No-Phone" areas.
Tom Oulton, Leeds, England

Theatre staff should remove anyone whose phone rings during a performance, no execeptions and make sure everyone is aware of this fact before the start with a clear announcement. Sweets are less obtrusive and not so much of a problem.
Jason Smith, Wapping, London

I had a recent trip to the theatre ruined by a very well-heeled lady next to me fanning herself with a rolled-up newspaper, which rustled at a quite defeaning volume. The selfishness and stupidity of people in audiences constantly astounds me.
Jim, Wandsworth, UK

Mr Spacey is right. It's annoying to have my enjoyment of a rare trip to the theatre spoilt by phones ringing, and must be worse for those on stage. How sad that people have to be reminded to have consideration for others.
Maggie, Morecambe, UK

The behaviour of audiences at live perfomances can be intensely annoying. I regularly attend classical music concerts and often have quiet and sensitive passages destroyed by ringing mobiles, rustling sweet papers, talking or completely unrestrained coughing. It is indicative of our increasingly selfish society that so many people have such little consideration for both performers and other members of the audience.
Trevor Garratt, Leicester

I took my wife to see Chicago a few weeks ago and there were phones vibrating instead of ringing - which you can still hear! 'Off' should mean 'off', not 'vibrate'... The tide of public opinion is turning, albeit slowly, towards non-vibratory handsets. And if the star of Footloose helps bring this to light, then respect is due to him.
Phil McHunt, York

I totally agree with Kevin's views on mobile phones. It's decent courtesy to devote your attention to the performance and also to respect your fellow audience by turning your mobile phone off before the show. I'm going to see Cloaca next week and I'll be making sure my phone is off for the entire performance.
Caroline, London

At last! I wish that poeple would consider how their selfish behaviour can ruin an evening at the theatre for others. I was once in a row in front of a mother who talked continually to her child, explaining what was happening on the stage. I asked her to stop which she did but she was not pleased. I totally agree with Mr Spacey and hope that people take note.
John Clarke, London, UK

Absolutely. Mobile phones are annoying enough, but it's the sweets thing that really annoys me. Some people cannot seem to contemplate going to the theatre or cinema without half the contents of their local supermarket's confectionery aisle. I'm surprised they're fit enough to leave their sofas, never mind struggle all the way into the grand circle...
Keith, Edinburgh

Theatre and film are mediums whereby the immersion of the audience into an alternate reality is the principle by which we are entertained. Being interrupted by those who choose to eat noisily, talk to the person sat next to them or (god forbid) leave their mobile phones switched to an audible ring, is symptomatic of the current trend to be rude, thoughtless, and to pay no attention to the feelings of others. I'm only in my mid twenties, not some old fuddy-duddy, yet I am left increasingly stunned by the shear rudeness of my peers and of those about to become adults. It's a sad world we live in when it is hip to be rude.
Daniel, Bicester, England

It's not just at the theatre that it's a problem and it's not just the use of phones either... Obviously, actors can be put off their stride by such interruptions but it's also very irritating for the rest of the audience, whether it's at the theatre or the cinema or a concert. The lack of manners and consideration of some people is shocking! I've recently been to two concerts that were being recorded and where people were having loud conversations throughout depite being asked to be quiet. I think the management of venues have a responsibility to put up signs, make announcements and eject people if they are disruptive...
Ian Clifford, Newcastle Under Lyme

Why, oh why do people come to the theatre, spend a lot of money for a ticket, and then spend the entire performance talking to their friend 'sotto voce' during the entire performance. They always look most offended when 'shushed' by other members of the audience!
John D, Amersham, Bucks

Hats off to Kevin Spacey for his comments!!! As an actor and regular theatregoer, there is nothing more frustrating than someone crinkling wrappers, munching on sweets or, in some cases of completely baffoonery, opening cans of cola! There is no excuse for this type of thing, it's just bad manners. Would they do it in church, or whilst in bed with a partner? No! Why? Because it's bad manners... Be warned!!!
Alan Cross, Edinburgh

More and more people are using mobile phones in places like the theatre and also cinema. It's getting to the point where I often see people phoning a friend during a screening telling them what's happening with no sense of shame about them. They truly don't seem to understand or care that what they are doing is rude. Also its distracting seeing all the little phone screens lit up in the darkened auditorium. These people should be thrown straight out, no excuses.
Adam, Birmingham

Writing from Brazil, where theatre (and cinema) goers are notoriously inconsiderate, I agree wholeheartedly with Kevin Spacey. Since having burly ushers rip the phones from people's hands and crush them under their heels might lead to lawsuits, and teaching good manners could take generations, people should be asked to leave their phones at the door (better yet, at home). A more costly solution would be building theatres that block mobile phone signals. All else failing, playwrights could take a cue from Jurassic Park III and make ringing phones part of the plot!
Sabrina Gledhill, Salvador, Brazil

I absolutely agree. How many theatregoers are important enough that must take a call during a performance? My guess is none of them. There's an inflated sense of self-importance that one gets when the mobile rings. Perhaps a "mobile phone crèche" is the answer. Why do cinemas sell pop corn in plastic bags? I had to sit through hours of some woman managing to make hers last for the entire duration of LOTR: Return of the King. Does she really think I go to the cinema to listen to her eating? The problem with theatres and cinemas is that you don't get the right class of people at them.
Hywel, UK

There is a simple solution to the phone problem - install jamming devices which disrupt mobile frequencies inside the theatre. Some far eastern countries do this in cinemas to prevent interuptions. It would need a minor law change, as such devices are currently banned in the UK, but in a confined place like a theatre they would cause no harm and enhance everyone's enjoyment of the performance. Low-tech rustling sweet wrappers on the other hand are harder to deal with!
Jack Howard, Leeds, UK

I totally agree with Kevin Spacey and well done for standing up for theatre ethics. It would have been even better if he had also used the opportunity to condemn the "early leaving before the play has finished" habit. That is as rude as and intrusive to both actors and audiences as a mobile phone ringing or a sweet wrapper rustling.
Mrs van der Zooi, London

I completely agree with Mr. Spacey. It drives me mad when people eat or allow phones to ring in theatres and in cinemas. If you want to eat and watch a film, rent it!
Judith Brindley, Reading, UK

He's absolutely right. People seem to have no respect for the fact that they can be uncontactable for a few hours without the world falling apart. I think restaurants should encourage the same sort of thing.
Simon, Bolton, UK

I absolutely agree with what Kevin is saying. Perhaps theatre has become more accessible with the increase of cheap tickets and populist musicals, and therefore behaviour standards are becoming degraded. I have been at a performance of Swan Lake where a mobile went off in the middle of a key musical sequence, and more incredibly, at a performance of My Fair Lady where someone shouted out the punchline Jonathan Pryce was about to deliver at the end of Why can't a woman. He rebounded well, but it was a mood killer in the middle of an otherwise immaculate performance.
susan, reading, uk

Mobile phones ringing in the theatre or cinema is a pet hate of mine. It makes one wonder just what we all did before the mobile was invented. On one trip to the cinema, someone answered their phone and proceeded to chat for 20 minutes, not giving any thought to other people around. Yep, cheers for that - I really need to know how drunk you got last Saturday night! In the theatre, it's even worse. As for sweets in the theatre - it's not quite as annoying as the idiots who choose to have a couple of glasses of white wine in the interval and then chat through the second half of the performance, or disrupt the performance with contact trips to the toilet...
Andrew Coombes, Cardiff

Mobile phones should be switched OFF. Period. Mine is only ever on vibrate so it will not disturb on trains, in restaurants, theatre or church. Why should anyone be so selfish or think themselves so important that they should disturb anyone else, anywhere, with their mobile. And stop drivers using them, they are potential killers...
Peter White, Seaford UK

As someone who acts in a local theatre group I agree with Mr Spacey about the mobile phones. It is unfortunate that some people believe that it is ok to ruin not just an actor's performance but also the enjoyment of other audience members who have paid just as much as they have to see a show. However my personal pet hate is actually cameras. I see far too many people in shows who seem to think that taking pictures during the show is acceptable (many using flash photography) and this is very offputting.
Iain Hicken, Swindon, England

YES! And also all noisy snacks should be banned from cinemas. Why do people have to eat? Its so childish. You're supposed to be concentrating on the medium you've bought tickets for not adding the UK's obesity problem at the same time. The good news is that apparently mobile phone service deadening technology is about to be rolled out that could stop phones from working in auditoria. Bring it on, say I!
Alex, London, UK

Oh dear..perhaps we should all put phones on buzz mode only. Judging by the quality of some of these plays, it's the closest we get to a thrill.
Paul, London, UK

It's bad enough in a cinema, where at least the sound track is loud enough to mask some audience induced sound, but in the theater you don't have this. It bad for the actors and the audience. Kick them out!
RichT, London

I can live with sweet wrappers, but mobile phones? Turn them off or stay away. There are an annoyance.
Tony Dixon, Malvern, UK

Not only does it ruin a theatre production, but also cinema visits. If people want to stay in touch with their friends, do so outside of the theatre/cinema. I would welcome a return of ushers to eject annoying persons from the performances!
Jon Gray, Chesterfield, UK

I don't agree with Kevin's comments. In some circumstances it is necessary to take a mobile phone - as I'm normally on standby from work. As for the crisps comments - that just childish. Next he'll be telling us not to kiss and cuddle in the back row....Come on Kevin, if you don't like it you can always return to the USA.
Martin (Mcfly) Masefield, Fulham

Theatregoers do not pay to hear other people's phones go off - it is rude, disruptive and inconsiderate - the same happens in movie theaters and the same rules should be applied. Congratulations to Spacey for taking this on.
Naureen, London

I can't stand the rustle of sweet and crisp packets and the crunch of popcorn in a cinema. I get the impression that the rest of the audience has some insatiable need to eat while watching a film. I rarely go to the mainstream cinemas now. I much prefer a local independent where the clientele generally consists of people who actually want to WATCH a film.
Dave Bishton, Sheffield, UK

Surely kevin should instruct the theatres themselves to stop selling sweets!
Ste Carr, Liverpool

Too right about the slow unwrapping of sweets! Why do people think this is less annoying? People do it in meetings too. It's pure selfishness.
Duncan Hothersall, Edinburgh, Scotland

At last someone has had the gumption to stand up and say "no more", these idiots should be pulled out of the theatre by their ears!
Simon, Woking, England

People shouldn't go to the theatre if they cannot leave the outside world outside for a few hours. Theatre is about escapism and art.
Lizzie, London, UK

I agree mobile phones should be switched off before entering the theatre, but although I wouldn't eat sweets myself I do think that theatres shouldn't sell items in the foyer that they don't want eaten during the performance.
Zoe, Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex

People who have mobile phones turned on in Cinemas and Theaters should be publicly flogged, I'm serious, they are cretins of the highest order. To even think of having one turned on in these places shows arrogance and stupidity of an almost stellar capacity. Put 'em in a field......
Gary Threlfall, Liverpool

I would dearly love to be able to go to the cinema and watch a film without listning to people slurping at their drinks and rattling about in cartons on popcorn. Unfortunately I dont think it will happen as the cinemas probably make more money on food sales than they do on the tickets.
Richard Warriner, Sandy, Beds, UK

People believe that for some reason the actors on stage won't hear these irritants. It is terribly off-putting. I do some theatre acting in Brighton where once a woman in the front row was busily unwrapping THE noisiest sweet wrapper I've ever heard. I gave her a cold hard stare, but she was oblivious, probably thought it was part of the show. Theatres shouldn't sell sweets contained in noisy wrappers and there should definitely be announcements before the show.
Des Potton, Brighton, UK

I've stopped visiting the cinema becuase of people's appalling behaviour and watch movies at home instead. Luckily I've not experienced this at the theatre yet, but I wholeheartedly agree with Kevin Spacey's opinons. People spend a lot of money to be entertained and do not want their evening ruined by selfish idiots talking on their phones. The more theatres can do to stamp out this kind of thing the better.
Steve Smith, Nottingham, UK

I agree with Kevin Spacey. I pay my money to go to watch a film or play and don't expect to be interupted by people's mobiles ringining. I always turn my phone off whilst I am in the cinema and expect the people who come with me to do so as well. It shows a lack of respect to other cinema/theatre goers and the actors in the theatre to let your phone ring loud. If you are expecting a call....don't go to the cinema that night.
Mary Johnson, Gloucester, England

I help out at a local theatre with the amatuer productions and can say phones are a nightmare. It's hard enough getting the cast to turn theirs off backstage, trying to ask the audience is impossible! Some arrogant people simply refuse, saying they need it for emergencies.
Nathan Hobbs, Luton, UK

Although I've experienced such incidences at the theatre, it is not the only place where it can be a nuisance. If someone pays to watch an indoor event, whether it be a play or a snooker match, they should have the decency to respect their fellow audience members and ensure that they have turned off their phone. Theatres shouldn't sell sweets!
Stuart Moore, London

I totally agree about the mobile phones but I have other views on the sweets. Being a diabetic I often need to eat sweets/food at inconvenient times. If it's in the middle of a performance, am I supposed to just go without and risk collapsing?
Nikki C, Sevenoaks

Not only do such things ruin theatre performances, they also cause irritation at cinema performances, lectures, on trains, etc... If you must have your phone on, then have it set to silent mode.
Dan Driscoll, Guildford, UK

Totally agree. Some people simply have no consideration for others. The same goes for the cinema.
Sara, Wokingham, UK

I can't remember the last time I went to the pictures and enjoyed a phone ringing-free film... not to mention the inconsiderate people who decide to have a chat at the top of their voices behind you!
Majed, Bradford, England

I had to put up with some moron answering his mobile during the cricifixion in The Passion of the Christ at the local multiplex! Kevin Specey is spot on. Either you behave or you leave. I just wish all cinemas and theatres adopted his stance.
Fabian, UK

If you are unable to turn your mobile phones you should at least be set it to silent when attending the theatre. I totally agree with Kevin Spacey's arguement - people should have respect for the actors and all involved.
Adam, London

Another thing that should be banned for ALL performances is drinking alcohol during a performance. I can't tell you how frustrating it is as an audience member to see people spend more time travelling to and from the bar and toilet than watching the play/band/comedian.
Tony Gardner, Sunderland, United Kingdon

As well as the obvious annoyance to other audience members when they ring, mobile phones (even when on silent) pose a serious threat in theatres. They interfere with the radio microphones, and in some cases can set off pyrotechnic (flashes/bangs/sparks etc) devices prematurely.
Nathan Hobbs, Luton, UK

It's annoying for the rest of the audience so heaven knows how off-putting it is for the actors on stage (and galling for everyone else involved in the production). Well done Kevin - courtesy from audience members is the least one can expect.
Emma, London UK

I think it particularly rude for people to allow their mobile phones to ring during any kind of performance, whether on stage, open air, church, whatever. It's as bad as people talking during the same kind of thing. I don't think people realise just how distracting it is, or how sound carries in an amphi-theatre. A polite reminder to people to ensure their phones are switched off before a performance begins - may be at the door when one's bag is searched, someone could just ask: 'have you switched off your phone, please'. As for sweet wrappers, well, I must plead guilty to trying to unwrap a sweet quietly at times! Coughing is another matter, of course...
Cherry, Bracknell

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