Two Southampton venues are spearheading a campaign to combat worsening audience behaviour in theatres across the country.

Staff at historic Mayflower Theatre in Commercial Road, and its sister venue MAST Mayflower Studios in Guildhall Square, are highlighting conflicts over audience members singing along with performers, taking phone calls during shows and jumping bar queues. 

Chief executive Michael Ockwell said problems seemed to have escalated across the industry since the Covid pandemic, although there had been no major issues in Southampton with around half a dozen people removed from the theatre in the past year. 

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Launching the public awareness campaign, which feature dedicated team members, he said: "The idea for this new campaign came after observing reports of audience behaviour issues in other venues across the country – from customers causing show stops, assaulting Front of House staff and creating the need for police attendance.

"We asked for the views of our colleagues from across the organisation, including Front of House staff, artistic and executive leadership, and our marketing team, as it is important that our team feel safe in their job.

"Whilst we are fortunate in Southampton to see very few of these issues on a regular basis, we decided to reinforce our dedication to our staff by reminding our customers of the friendly faces of our organisation, what they do, and most importantly, that they’re human and doing their best to ensure that everyone has the most enjoyable experience possible."

Daily Echo: Michael Ockwell, chief executive of the two Southampton theatres spearheading the audience

The posters and digital screens around the theatres urge respect towards members of staff by portraying them as regular members of society. 

Under the banner 'sister, cyclist', one notice shows a box office worker, along with the tag line: 'There's no excuse for abuse'.

Tasha Finch, Head of Customer Operations, added: "We wanted to be proactive with this campaign knowing that customer behaviour not only within our industry, but in all walks of life is getting more and more challenging. It was important for both of our venues to involve our staff, so they are represented in this campaign - these are real people on our front line." 

Daily Echo: Mayflower Theatre auditorium

Customers will also receive pre-visit emails with further reminders, and the campaign will feature on the theatres’ websites.