Seasoned theatre-goers today accused young Hobbit fans of “ruining” Martin Freeman’s return to the West End Richard III by cheering, screaming and clapping when their idol takes the stage.
Freeman, famed for his role as Bilbo Baggins, has attracted a new audience to the production at Trafalgar Studios, but purists say fans who applaud his opening soliloquy are breaching “theatre etiquette”.
Maureen Lipman, who is about to star in the West End production of Daytona, added: “Martin Freeman’s face is on every bus in London.
“The producers are aiming for people who spend most of their day with wire in their ears. It is not so much Richard III as Richard the rock concert.”
Theatre blogger Claire Dikecoglu said: “After the opening monologue some fans tried to kick off clapping and cheering, which I found to be disruptive and unnecessary.
“While I am not a traditionalist in terms of dramaturgy, I do believe in proper theatre etiquette.
“I understand that Martin Freeman is popular, but I have no bigger pet peeve than everything getting standing ovations these days.”
Celebrated actress Dame Eileen Atkins said “It ultimately breaks the spell of the story. I think that what is happening is because of the success of The Hobbit. Martin Freeman is attracting a different kind of audience who are not used to the theatre.”
Haydn Gwynne, who co-starred opposite Kevin Spacey in The Old Vic’s 2011 production of Richard III, said: “If people clap at the beginning, then there is a danger they are being taken out of the story. It should not be about the famous person. It should be about the play and the role.’
However, Oscar-winning dramatist Christopher Hampton said he had no problem with people showing appreciation for actors in the middle of a play.
Mr Hampton, whose hits include Les Liaisons Dangereuses and the musical Sunset Boulevard, said: “Attracting first-time theatregoers is the holy grail as far as we are all concerned. We want them to come as much as possible.” “I am all for people having a good time in the theatre and if they want to express themselves like that, I don’t see any harm in it.’
Richard III director Jamie Lloyd defended the young fans from criticism, he said: “The show’s standing ovations have been instant, to reward the entire cast, not just Martin.
“They don’t wait for Martin to come on for his bow. I think that we are seeing an authentic, enthusiastic reaction from a generational muddle in the audience.”
Source: London Evening Standard