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Manners maketh the cinema and theatrical experience

Imelda Staunton on stage. She has complained about people eating during performances - even suggesting a ban on people eating in theatre auditoriums full stop.
Imelda Staunton on stage. She has complained about people eating during performances - even suggesting a ban on people eating in theatre auditoriums full stop.

The actors are revolting, because the unwashed masses are repulsive, apparently.

Imelda Staunton, the serious actor everybody remembers as the sinister Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films, has complained about munching theatregoers during an interview with the Radio Times and suggested a ban on eating and drinking at the theatre.

Others have joined in. I’m reminded of the late Richard Griffiths, another Harry Potter baddie, who broke character on stage to tell a woman to leave after her mobile phone rang.

These actors have a point. In the theatre, it’s supposed to be an immersive experience, made all the more profound by being in the room with the performers.

But with respect to the world’s luvvies, there’s a bigger problem with audience behaviour. I’m talking about the cinema, which attracts far more people.

We’ve all been there. It’s dark and you’re settled in nicely, ignoring the chewing gum on the floor and the price of the ticket in the hope of enjoying the film you’ve really been anticipating.

Then it happens. Giggling. Chatting. Throwing popcorn. Lights from phones because some people can’t set them aside for two hours. Producing a sausage supper from a pocket and commencing to devour it with gusto. Yes, I experienced that. It stank.

Plenty of us have given up going to the cinema, or sought out quieter times of day so we can watch in peace, thus defeating the purpose of the shared experience.

I’m with Imelda but she should be talking about respect, not food. There’s nothing wrong with eating during a performance, if it’s done with decorum and consideration.

The answer? Tell them. Object. We deserve better and it’s time to demand it, directly and firmly – because there’s nothing rude about that.

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