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Enter the bouncer: Invasion of drunken theatre louts forces West End producers to hire security men


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Enter the bouncer: Invasion of drunken theatre louts forces West End producers to hire security men


By Paul Sims

Last updated at 9:14 PM on 02nd August 2009




article-1203818-046B5661000005DC-956_233x408.jpg 'Stop right there': West End theatres are employing bouncers to tackle increasingly drunken audiences



A dramatic new role has come up in the West End theatre - for bouncers.


Audience behaviour has become so bad that many producers are hiring security staff to throw out the worst offenders.


Ticket prices reduced to as little as £10 to attract younger audiences and a liberal attitude to alcohol in the auditorium have served to fuel the vulgar antics.

Some customers have been seen to fight, fondle each other and even publicly urinate.


Hit musicals including Dirty Dancing, Thriller and Grease are among those employing the type of burly men in suits more normally seen guarding pub doors.


Nica Burns, who co-owns the Lyric Theatre, where Thriller is playing, and four other West End venues, is among those recruiting bouncers.


'In a show like Thriller you may get people who have never been to the theatre before and may have been out for a drink before they arrive,' she said. 'It can get quite hectic and very boisterous.'

A source close to the production said police had to be called to deal with troublemakers.


And the cast of Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music were stunned to see an audience member walk over to the side of the stage and relieve himself.



article-1203818-031D1E97000005DC-583_468x382.jpg Musical hit: The Lyric Theatre which is showing Thriller, above, is just one venue to hire bouncers after problems with violent and drunk patrons


Elsewhere, the audience for Dirty Dancing was likened to a 'bear pit' by insiders. They said the crowd


was so unpredictable that the original male lead, Josef Brown, occasionally scrapped his character's auditorium entrance as he feared he might be confronted by drunken louts on his way to the stage.


article-0-049B9BD70000044D-573_233x380.jpg Taking precautions: Josef Brown with Dirty Dancing co-star Georgina Rich, feared that he would be attacked by drunken louts in the audience


Desmond Atuehene, 46, who works on the door of the Prince of Wales Theatre, where Mamma Mia! is playing, said: 'When hen parties come, they are always drunk but you just have to ignore them.


'Two months ago a drunk guy came in and assaulted me.'


Patrick Stewart, the veteran actor, was distracted last week during a performance of Waiting for Godot by a member of the audience taking photographs with his mobile phone. Other patrons have let their phones ring and even taken calls while a play is running.


Rosamund Pike, the film and stage actress who recently appeared opposite Dame Judi Dench in Madame de Sade, said she had seen someone in the front row busily sending text messages.


Greta Scacchi, who appeared last year in Terence Rattigan's The Deep Blue Sea, said someone in the audience called out during a particularly dramatic moment.


'Everyone told him to "Shush". But he just shouted back, "Chill out, I'm only having a bit of fun".' During another performance of the same play, Miss Scacchi recalled someone falling asleep in the front row and snoring loudly.


Ronald Harwood, whose play Collaboration is on at the Duchess Theatre, is calling for a ban on alcohol.

'I am deeply opposed to the taking of drink into the auditorium,' he said. 'I think it's an insult to the actors and to the play. The audience should be in the play, not the pub.'

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