The Yobs Cometh

Whether we’re sunning on the deck of Culture Shock’s Worldwide Headquarters atop Valhalla View Tower South, driving around town in our Toyota Emasculas, or pounding down boilermakers and eating jo jos at the Coff-Em-Up Club, one question your correspondents are always pondering is this:

How can the performing arts attract new audience members in this age of media saturation, economic meltdown, crumbling infrastructure, global jihadism, melting icecaps, rampant greed, unbounded sloth, celebrity idolatry, and booze-soaked, devil-may-care, willy-nilly nihilism?

We’re trying. Lord knows we’re trying. But do we really understand the risks we’re taking when we try to “engage” audiences? A recent story in the London Times Online may serve as a cautionary tale by bringing attention to a potential downside to attracting new audience members—particularly those who may not be familiar with the refined manners we’ve grown to expect during our high-brow cultural outings.

The article, titled “Mind your step: It’s a yob’s night at the theatre,” starts:

“Coming to a theatre near you: sex, violence and drunken high jinks — and that’s just the audience. A number of West End theatres are now employing bouncers to cope with intoxicated patrons who fight, fondle one another and even urinate in the auditorium. The yobbish behaviour has led to theatregoers being ejected during performances and police being called to some of London’s most successful shows.”

Now I can abide with alcohol-fueled hi-jinks, and I can tolerate the urinators, as long as they're downstream from me. But fondling? One another? I'll have no truck with such shenanigans. Is this how far the western world has fallen?

Where does the blame for these “vulgar antics” lie? Some commentators attribute the hooliganism to low ticket prices instituted to draw the youngsters through the doors. Others say it’s the liberal availability of the devil’s nectar before and during performances. One might argue [not me] that the rowdy behavior now on constant display at every West End theatre [emphasis added] simply harkens back to the age of Shakespeare, when unwashed stinkards would mill about during performances, quaffing flagons of poultrouse, eating fried currcakes and wiping their greasy, sugar-encrusted fingers on each other’s fobkins and pendergrasts.

All I’m saying is let’s be careful and not get too crazy with the audience engagement initiatives. The Law of Unintended Consequences, what ho and all that.

NOTE: If any of our readers found this post disturbing, rest your eyes on the picture below, found while searching Google Images for “yobs.”


LicketyGlitz said...

Brilliant. Bring on the yobs! (One of my steamiest makeout sesssion ever happened in the backrow of the Winnie. Theatre! Hawt!)

MightyToyCannon said...

Dear Ms. Glitz, was that while you were working for ... oh never mind, I don't want to know.

culturejock said...

Ms. Glitz, I think you mean "The Dolores."

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

Sigh. This is a conversation I've had many times. If we want new people to try theater for the first time, we have to look at it from an outsider's perspective. Does it feel precious and pretentious and uptight? Or does having to show up on time, sit quietly during a performance, and keep your feet off the chair in front of you actually create a big part of the theater experience?

Unknown said...

It's a lousy Yob, but somebody's gotta do it.

MightyToyCannon said...

Bob, I can handle the drunkenness and urinating, but I draw the line at puns in the theater (Will Shakespeare excepted).

Ms. Smartypants, because I work for a children's theater, I've adjusted to a different standard of theater behavior. We're used to the wiggling, whispering and squirming, and we even seat people after the show has started. Heck, we even have urination problems. Still, we do try to inculcate some sense that the experience of attending a live performance is special and different -- that part of the magic is that you're in a room with other people being respectful of other audience members and the folks on stage. It's a tough balance.

shobiz said...

Fondling notwithstanding, this reminded me of something I recall from theatre history courses. If I remember correctly, in the 1800s, when theatre troupes started bringing their traveling shows to the newly settled West, they faced similar problems. Although, there was a fascinating angle: sometimes the rowdy, drunken cowhands and miners would get so engaged in the story, they would either forget or fail to realize that the damsel wasn't actually in distress, and would leap onstage to attack the villain. I don't know if that's true, but I hope it is, because it's a great image. (Though, not for the actor playing the villain, I suppose.)