Should fines be introduced for phones that ring during performances?

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More and more phones are becoming a nuisance at the cinema, concerts, theatre and so on. It is not only distracting for the audience, but also, and mainly, for those on stage.

A few years ago, the performance of ‘A Steady Rain’ staring Daniel Craig and Hugh Jackman was interrupted by someone’s phone ringing. Jackman reacted well in this case, by staying in character but asking the culprit to answer the phone, which is not done. Just as he was about to get back into the show, the phone rings again and both Craig and Jackman intervene asking the person to pick up. They make it sound funny and stay in character, but must have been highly aggravated. This was a nice example of handling of a ringing phone during a performance.

The actor Richard Griffiths spoke to a woman, whose phone rang during one of his performances in a West End play. He asked her to leave his performance of ‘Heroes’ after her phone rang a few times.  He even went on to say “The 750 people here would be fully justified in suing you for ruining their afternoon.” He had also ordered a man to leave his performance of the ‘History Boys’ back in 2004, after the man’s phone rang 6 times.

Kevin Spacey, who is artistic director at the Old Vic in London, has also been disrupted by a ringing phone to which he responded well. He told the person whose phone was ringing to tell them that they were busy. For this, he got a round of applause!

Actors are not the only ones who are interrupted by phones ringing. During a speech, President, Barack Obama had to stop mid-sentence as someone’s phone, with an interesting choice of ringtone, went off. Again his reaction was good and he gets back into his speech rapidly.

In Australia, the Micaleff television show was disrupted by a woman’s phone ringing. Again the host reacted very well, and picked up the call himself. He managed to make the interruption funny, especially with the punch line.

So it is not really surprising now that Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Master of the Queen’s Music, is looking into fining people whose phone ring during performances.

So if you have ever had your theatre experience ruined by mobile phones ringing or been on the receiving end of actors turning sour like Richard Griffiths, we’d love to hear your stories. And, for those of you who are still not clear on the rules, why not check out our London Theatre Guide for top tips on theatre etiquette!

12 responses to “Should fines be introduced for phones that ring during performances?

  1. K-man

    Not quite theatre, but Streatham Odean is definitely the noisiest cinema in Britain. Infact not texting or talking is actually considered bad form in SW16. Fining seems a bit harsh though

    • 9. Sarah
      Sarah

      I would think having 1000 people giving you “the stare” after your phone rang is maybe punishment enough!? If it happened to me I would certainly learn my lesson and quickly! :)

    • 9. Sarah
      Sarah

      Even worse are the ones that aren’t funny but everyone with them think they are hilarious!! Couldn’t agree more they should be fined!! :)

  2. Liz

    It is really annoying when phones go off… I think it could be worth trying it out in certain locations and see what the result is.

  3. Lu

    Seriously, I don’t understand how people forget to turn their phones off! How hard is it even just to put your phone on silent?! Also, there’s usually a request for phone’s to be switched off before a theatre performance starts, so there’s really no excuse for forgetting!

    I think comedians respond the best to phones going off – they usually just name and shame the person in front of the entire audience!! :)

    • 9. Sarah
      Sarah

      I am always nervous even when I know my phone is off. I don’t think I could stand the public humiliation from the comedian and the audience. I am a triple checker when it comes to these things, just in case! :D

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