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Paper Monitor

14:08 UK time, Monday, 5 November 2012

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Nowadays, theatregoers are well used to being asked to turn off their mobile phones before the start of a performance. But Paper Monitor would like to suggest the introduction of a new announcement - something along the lines of: "Please do not fall asleep in case you wake up in a state of confusion and are not responsible for your actions."

This is apparently what happened to Peter Hall, according to the theatre director himself. Hall has apologised to Downtown Abbey star Laura Charmichael for disrupting her West End debut, after apparently falling asleep and waking up in a state of confusion during the first night of Anton Chekhov's Uncle Vanya.

Hall was heard by other theatregoers the other evening exclaiming loudly at during the final speech by Carmichael, who was playing Sonya.

According to the Evening Standard, Hall was "mortified" for "unintentionally" disrupting the final scene, after being woken up by his wife.

"Being rather aged, I dropped off for a moment and on being woken by my wife I was briefly disorientated. Remarks made in the resulting confusion were not in any way related to Uncle Vanya, which I think is a very fine production with a marvellous company of actors."

So what happened - what exactly did Hall say?

Well, this, itself, is rather confusing. The Telegraph had reported that Hall had heckled, but The Guardian's Stephen Moss, who was at the same performance, says that wasn't what he heard.

In today's paper, he says he heard Hall saying: "It's not working, it's just not working," throughout the final speech.

Those final few minutes of the play, with Sonya intoning "Life must go on" and Hall responding "No, please stop now" (or words to that effect), were excruciatingly embarrassing, but also fantastically theatrical. It seems unlikely that this concluding soliloquy has ever been done as a two-hander.

Some members of the audience took to Twitter to report the disturbance. According to one, "Peter Hall wasn't actually heckling, he was muttering loudly about it not working."

Moss agrees:

That seems to me exactly right. He was fretting to himself about aspects of the production not working and worrying how they could be improved, but he was doing so loud enough for his voice - in a theatre hushed for Sonya's closing prayer - to carry up to the dress circle. It may have been the loudest mutter in theatrical history.

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