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Mobile phone rage….

Richard Griffiths has been at it again! Last year he stopped a performance of The History Boys at the National to berate a member of the audience whose mobile phone kept going off: “I am asking you to stand up, leave this auditorium, and never, ever come back” he told the offender.

Now the actor, currently appearing in Heroes at Wyndham’s, stopped the show again last Saturday when a phone went off repeatedly in the penultimate scene: “Could the person whose mobile phone it is please leave?” And when she got up to do so, he stepped forward and asked her, “Is that it, or will it be ringing some more? The 750 people here would be fully justified in suing you for ruining their afternoon.”

Griffiths was pushed to breaking point, he said afterwards: “It was one of the last scenes of the play and I had already had to restart the speech twice because her phone had gone off. I didn’t say anything until the third time, when I just thought it was too much.”

Mobile phones going off certainly bring breach the fourth wall of the theatre; but Griffiths’ reaction, understandable as it is, no doubt breached it even further. At the RSC, I once saw John Wood stop mid-speech as King Lear, and admonish the audience: “Will you please stop coughing?” And then, after briefly apologizing, he continued.

In the tiny confines of the Donmar, however, I have seen professional audience members frequently falling foul of such strictures. At one recent press night, the offending mobile phone belonged to Evening Standard theatre critic Nicholas de Jongh; at another, Michael Colgan of Dublin’s Gate Theatre phone kept bleeping with the sound of arriving text messages – which he was then observed replying to – thus creating another bleep every time the reply arrived, too! Confronted afterwards by a disgruntled colleague of mine, he told him, “I’m sure Chekhov is robust enough to withstand the intrusion!”

But at least Griffiths will be legally protected when he takes The History Boys to New York next spring. There, it’s illegal to let a phone ring during a performance, and offenders can get fined. “Yes, absolutely fine them £50 and hit them in their pockets,” he says. “Failing that, we could issue people with machetes and tell them to hack other people’s mobile phones to bits when they go off — that should do it.”

3 Comments

Howard Hewett, lead singer of 70s Disco/Soul Band Shalimar has been known to swipe offending mobile phones from audience members hands and sing the next song direct to the caller. Not sure if the same reward for bad behaviour would apply to theatre...although if the actor unleashed an Irvine Welsh monologue down the phone it might reflect the audience's view.
As a professional I can tell you, there is one thing more embarassing than your own mobile going off on the first night and ruining the climax of the show (mine once went off at a choral service in Westminster Cathedral) and that's the person sitting beside you who everyone knows you invited shouting loudly ''I'm Bored Can We Go to MacDonalds''during the death scene. Well, I suppose Son was only four at the time...

Well done, Richard Griffiths. More actors should take a leaf out of his book and perhaps audiences would begin to take note

With reference to the recent incident during the play 'Heroes' I would like to congratulate Richard Griffiths on his action in asking the theatregoer to leave - Quite right!!
Incidentally, could you tell me what the ringtone was when the lady in question was 'caught out'
This would help solve a little debate between myself and a colleague
Many thanks!
Mike

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