Theatre staff consider quitting after rise in drunken and rude audiences

Theatre staff are considering quitting, according to a survey.

Theatre staff across the UK are considering leaving the industry after a sharp rise in anti-social behaviour by customers since the Covid pandemic, a survey has found.

The research by the Broadcasting, Entertainment, Communications and Theatre Union (Bectu) found 45% of theatre staff were considering leaving their jobs.

Many respondents detailed how they had been subject to violent assualts and sexual harassment in the workplace.

Others reported having to deal with breaking up mass brawls and many reported instances where the police had to be called.

Of the 1,500 people who took part in the survey, 90% had witnessed "bad audience behaviour," with 70% saying it had got worse since theatres reopened after the pandemic.

One response said: "I have been spat at for refusing entry – their group did not have enough tickets for the performance and we did not have any available seats to put them in."

Another said: "The younger women in my theatre, including myself, were regularly sexually harassed by male audience members. We had to introduce a code word to be used in radio communications as we felt so unsafe.”

A common theme among all respondents was dealing with drunkenness.

Theatres have stopped using promotion lines like "dancing in the aisles" in an attempt to back away from the idea that performances are a party.

One respondent pointed to the very high alcohol prices at theatres as part of the problem.

They said because everyone knows alcohol will be very expensive in the theatre they choose to smuggle it in, often bringing in more than they would need.

Theatres are being urged to protect staff. Credit: PA

Philippa Childs, head of Bectu, said the survey demonstrated that bad and aggressive behaviour was not limited to any one type of theatre and is happening across all forms of performing arts, including opera and ballet.

"I’m shocked by the number of incidents and the extreme nature of some of them.

"It is now very clear that there is an issue, which the industry needs to address and take steps to resolve.

"Some of the lowest-paid people work in the industry. Nobody should go to work and face those issues. It is really concerning to me that people think this is acceptable when they go for a night out.

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"The threats of physical violence are particularly worrying, although none of the things described should be happening. We are really concerned for the health and safety of our members."

In response to the rise in anti-social behaviour Bectu is launching a Safer Theatres Charter, demanding management do more to provide a safe environment for their workers.

The Charter asks businesses to adopt a zero-tolerance policy and ensure an adequate level of staffing, among other pledges.