I was in the cinema yesterday and a middle aged, middle class, well dressed and well to do lady talked incessantly throughout the film. She wasn’t even doing that annoying whispering that people do. The whispering which they think is inaudible but is actually like a dripping tap in your ear as you’re bombarded with the annoying sibilants. She was just talking at normal volume to the two teenagers she was with. Naturally, I didn’t tolerate it for long, about 15 minutes to be more precise. She was within speaking distance so I had to stand up and ask her to stop, pointing out how rude she was being. Luckily she apologised.There are rules to attending the cinema. You can talk all you want during the adverts. During the film trailers, you should remain silent, only turning to your companion and briefly saying either “That looks good!” or “That looks crap!” in sotto voce. Once the film starts there are is only one acceptable reason to speak and that is paralysis. I accept that a small stroke or a spinal cord lesion would necessitate whispering for an ambulance, but anything else uttered is beyond the pale. Anything else can wait till the film finishes.
I often find that older people are the rudest and more ill mannered, with a direct correlation between age and amount of thoughtless rudeness. I’ve had so many ruined performances of plays, concerts and comedy performances due to people talking. I went to see “The Cherry Orchard” and a well heeled couple in their 70s talked throughout the first half. I spoke to them during the interval and they were apologetic. Oddly though, they seemed to forget this and during the second half talked again. “Excuse me, it was rude to talk in the first half, it’s still very rude to talk in the second half too. Stop it!” It seemed to work. I also recently missed all the dialogue of the first half hour of “The King’s Speech” due to a couple with the largest and loudest bad of crisps in creation. Unfortunately they were too far away to shush so I had to put up with it and tell them off at the end.
I went to see a poetry reading by Wendy Cope, a very dignified and slightly stern lady. Ten minutes in a man answered a mobile phone call and the genteel middle class audience looked on with horror, no one saying a word as he talked over the performance on his way to the exit. Amusingly, he then did the same thing again 10 minutes later and Wendy Cope paused and gave him a bemused look over her glasses as a hundred middle class people all shushed him simultaneously. His facial expression was classic.
A bunch of school children talked, shouted and threw things throughout a play I was at once and amazingly not one of their teachers got up from their seats (three rows away, sensible move) and spoke to them. I gave them a mini lecture in the interval and then told the teachers what I thought of their ability to do their jobs. They looked a bit stunned as an ageing homosexual stood lecturing them about how to do their jobs.
I’ve shushed and harangued in cinemas and theatres throughout the land and I have a worrying suspicion that one day someone will take umbrage to my shushing as much as I take umbrage to their annoying rudeness and I’ll get a punch in the face. If I had my way, there’d be professional “shushers” patrolling all cinemas and theatres with long sticks, tazers or those things you hook people out of pools with, to remove offenders. You won't be surprised to know, I always wanted to be a librarian when I was at school.
My most legendary incident happened in London during a performance of “Bent”, the brilliant play about gay people in Nazi Germany. Three rows in front sat a plump youngish couple who were talking at full volume. I was extremely frustrated and started to fidget and fret, unable to sit still. My dilemma was a) do I put up with this and miss half the dialogue in the play? b) do I get up, walk over to them and disrupt the play (I was in the centre of a row)? or c) do I just shout over? I didn’t want to make a show of myself.
My companion looked nervously on as he could sense a storm brewing and knew my moods well. I had a brainwave and started to rummage in my bag. The look on the man’s face as I reached forward and prodded the back of his head with my retractable umbrella was priceless. I enjoyed pressing that button. I like to think he’s better behaved now, but I somehow doubt it.