One of the Whingers’ new year resolutions is to pose more questions. Not because we don’t know the answers (we do) or are interested in the opinions of others (we clearly aren’t), but because it seems to be a popular device beloved of Guardian blog sub-editors – you know the kind of thing – What theatrical experience are you dreading this year?, What were your productions of the year?, Why are UK ovations on the rise? – so we thought that we would give it a go.
Now the point is that the latter question (the one about ovations) is a good question, but the wrong question. The right question is “Why don’t audiences boo any more?”. When did they get so wussy?
It seems that these days the most radical thing ordinary people (i.e. the Whingers) are prepared to do to express their disappointment is either to walk out in the interval (or preferably just before it) or blog caustically about it afterwards.
Phil did once try to reintroduce the custom of booing at the end of Resurrection Blues but it didn’t catch on – not even with Andrew who had agreed to boo along but was too intimidated by the frosty stares of the couple sitting next to him who looked like they lived in Weybridge.
To be fair, that was two years ago and the Whingers haven’t sat through anything nearly as bad since then.
But perhaps theatre-goers’ standards have fallen. Opera-goers, on the other hand, still cheerfully boo occasionally at bad productions.
The Whingers have resolved to be far less wussy in 2008. They have been inspired by the tale of the Old Price Riots in what is now the Royal Opera House and are determined to up the ante in terms of playhouse disobedience. The story goes thus:
To help cover the costs of rebuilding the theatre once it had burned down the management was raised the prices of admission when it reopened in 1809. On the opening night, riots broke out during a performance of Macbeth and continued throughout the play.
Reiterated shouts of ‘Old prices, Old prices’ greeted both [actor-manager] John Philip Kemble and Sarah Siddons each time they appeared on stage. The noise was such that 500 soldiers were dispatched to the gallery, but the rioters climbed down to the lower galleries, the sight of the soldiers merely increasing the antagonism of the house.
‘It was a noble sight’ said the Times, ‘to see so much just indignation in the public mind’.
Indeed. The riots lasted for 64 days until Kemble capitulated, reduced the prices and made a public apology from the stage.
We’re not sure what’s going to tip us over the edge – it could be the bar prices, the programmes, the state of the toilets or even the show. Feel free to join in.