Theatregoers watching World Cup during show were ‘disrespectful and distracting’

Theatregoers celebrated as England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford saved a penalty (Aaron Chown/PA) Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

A theatre manager has branded audience members who watched England’s World Cup penalty shootout against Colombia on their phones while seated in the front row of the show as “disrespectful and distracting”.

Cast members were horrified when two women at the front of the audience for Titanic The Musical at the Theatre Royal in Nottingham audibly celebrated each goal during the nail-biting conclusion to the game, while the production was going on.

Jonathan Saville, interim venue director of the Theatre Royal & Royal Concert Hall Nottingham, told the Press Association: “On Tuesday evening, our front of house team informed every member of the audience on entering the auditorium that they should turn off their mobile phone.

“Our duty manager was present in the stalls throughout Act 2 of the performance.

“The audience were extremely quiet, and she was not aware of any audible or visual disturbance until the company alerted her to it.

“It would seem that these two audience members seated on the front row, only a few feet away from the stage, perhaps had not realised that their actions could be both seen and heard.

“Even if audience members feel that they are being quiet or discreet in checking their phones during a performance, it is both disrespectful and distracting to the actors on stage and to the other people around them.

“Our staff are vigilant in stopping this kind of behaviour, where it is practical to do so without further distracting from the action on stage, but we do also rely on people using courtesy and respect to those around them when they come to see a live theatre performance.”

Cast member Niall Sheehy wrote on Twitter at the time: “To the two women in the front row tonight who not only followed the penalty shootout on their phone, but also said ‘yesss’ on each goal scored, you are the most ignorant audience members I have ever had the misfortune to perform in front of.

“And when a cast member signalled ‘put your phone away’ during the bows and you smiled, gave a thumbs up and replied ‘I know – we won!!’, I think you may have let us all know you are the stupidest woman on the planet.

“Please avoid attending any future theatrical productions.”

Another cast member, Kieran Brown, wrote: “Dumbfounded. 2 ladies, 1 older 1 middle aged, slap bang front row clearly watching football on phones during the most poignant moment of lifeboats scene, cheering & giggling like stupid schoolgirls.

“To say I’m raging is an understatement! They should be marched out in disgrace!”

It is understood to be the first time an incident like this has ever happened at the Nottingham theatre but is not the first time audience members have behaved badly at other shows.

In 2015, cast members of Hand To God on Broadway were alarmed when one audience member walked on to the stage to plug his phone charger into a socket just before the production started.

In 2009, Patti LuPone famously stopped a performance of Gypsy when a phone flash went off and, in 2015, she snatched a phone from a woman who was texting in the middle of the play Shows For Days.

Benedict Cumberbatch had to urge fans to stop photographing and recording videos during his performances of Hamlet at the Barbican after numerous productions were disrupted, and audience members for Doctor Faustus, starring Game Of Thrones actor Kit Harington, thought nothing of eating a box of chicken nuggets during the show in 2016.