bbc.co.uk
Home
Explore the BBC
You and Yours - Transcript
BBC Radio 4
Print This Page
TX: 22.06.06 - Noise is "off"
 
PRESENTER: WINIFRED ROBINSON
Downloaded from www.bbc.co.uk/radio4 
THE ATTACHED TRANSCRIPT WAS TYPED FROM A RECORDING AND NOT COPIED FROM AN ORIGINAL SCRIPT. BECAUSE OF THE RISK OF MISHEARING AND THE DIFFICULTY IN SOME CASES OF IDENTIFYING INDIVIDUAL SPEAKERS, THE BBC CANNOT VOUCH FOR ITS COMPLETE ACCURACY. 


MUSIC FROM INTO THE WOODS

ROBINSON
A taste of Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods . By all accounts it's a difficult show to stage and if you're in the audience to follow. So how would you feel if your concentration on this show was broken by noises from a group of disabled people? Might you feel so strongly that you'd complain to the management and ask to have them removed? Well that's Mark Shenton did at a recent performance at Derby Playhouse. He's a theatre critic and he wrote about what happened on the Stage website where he described two young people among a group with learning disabilities as loudly groaning and yelping.

Mark Shenton, tell us if you would what happened.

SHENTON
Well I'm all for as much access as possible for everyone to go to the theatre but on this particular occasion well into the first act or throughout the first act there was a group of people, I didn't know who they were or what they were because I hadn't seen, I'd come in, hadn't seen anybody there and the action was punctuated by these noises from the back of the auditorium. And they grew in frequency and loudness throughout the performance. There came a point at which I thought I could not stand it any longer because - again I still did not know who they were but clearly a disruption was occurring and had to be dealt with. I went outside to find a house manager, who was nowhere to be found, apparently was in her office, was told that this was a special needs party and that they had been under instruction - it was the first time they'd been to the theatre, they were hoping that they - didn't know whether they'd cause a noise or not, it was hoped that they wouldn't but they were supposed to be monitoring the situation. They didn't monitor it and as a result the performance was not only ruined for me but also the actors, I'm told afterwards, also noticed it too and it affected their performances. The liveness of theatre is that we're all in it together and what we all do in that room affects each other.

ROBINSON
They were young people with learning disabilities, do you think then that they shouldn't have been in the theatre?

SHENTON
I think they - I'm absolutely for them going to the theatre under certain conditions. In this case - you know when we have a sign language interpreted performance those performances are advertised in advance and we know that that's what it is. Going to this unwittingly, walking in, not realising that there would be a disruption I mean I think as long as we knew in advance we could make a choice for ourselves as to whether we wanted to be there. And having driven 200 miles I wanted to watch a show in conditions that I'm used to, which is to not have disruption from any sector.

ROBINSON
Well Karen Hebden from the Derby Playhouse is in our Derby studio. When Mark Shenton complained to you what did you do?

HEBDEN
Hi there. Mark and I spoke in the interval. Obviously to Mark it looked like nothing was happening, Janty Mills who organises these groups was actually in the auditorium, had heard the noise, came out and the front of house manager wasn't in her office, she was actually in a meeting with myself and Janty trying to decide what was best to do. In a different kind of show we might have asked the group to come out in a scene change but with Into the Woods it doesn't stop, there is no break and we took the decision it would have been more disruptive to have tried to remove the two people making the noise, who were first time theatre goers, to ask them in the interval very nicely if they would mind not going back in, rather than try and disrupt the performance even more by trying to remove them in the middle of the show.

ROBINSON
So you agreed with Mark Shenton, in fact, they shouldn't have been there, they were making too much noise?

HEBDEN
No I didn't agree that they shouldn't been there but I did agree ...

ROBINSON
Why did you ...

HEBDEN
... they were making - there were making a noise and they saw the first half and then the group leader took them away.

ROBINSON
So let's just get this straight? You did go up and speak to them, did you, as a result the group leader decided to take them all out?

HEBDEN
Yes she did but she returned the following week with some of the same group who hadn't been making a noise and some more of the learning disability users that work with her group and they had a brilliant time, there was no noise, no disruption and so Mark's suggestion that we kind of segregate everybody into one performance is not how we operate, it's not what I'd want to see. We have over 3,000 disabled users who come to Derby Playhouse and we've rarely had an incident like this and we couldn't plan for it, all you can do is cope with it at the time.

ROBINSON
Did anyone else complain?

HEBDEN
They didn't actually, no. I mean the actors spoke to me afterwards, I directed the show so I was very close to the performers, and as many of them said to me we quite often get a regular theatregoer who answers their mobile phone in the middle of a show, which is equally as annoying, and people who cough too much, people who rustle sweets, you can't make it a quiet environment without kind of vetting the audience before they go in and asking everybody if they mind being quiet.

ROBINSON
I'm just a bit puzzled having said all that about why when Mark Shenton complained you decided you'd ask them to leave.

HEBDEN
No we'd already taken the decision to ask them to leave before I spoke to Mark, in the interval and was able to tell him that they wouldn't be going back in, in the second half. We just felt that the young people had had an experience, it was the first time they'd been to the theatre, the group leader agreed that she hadn't realised that two of them would be disturbed by the performance and it was better that she took them away and the rest of the group obviously had to go with her because she was their carer.

ROBINSON
Margie Woodward's on the line from the charity Scope, it campaigns for the rights of disabled people and she has cerebral palsy. What do you make of all this?

WOODWARD
Well I find it very disturbing that people want to segregate disabled people because they want to have a good time at the theatre. I think Mark is being terribly oversensitive and the theatre staff did it extremely well. They actually acknowledge that they have disabled people in their audience quite a lot of the time and no other problems have ever occurred. Just a one off should surely not have got all this publicity. Disabled people don't want to be segregated anymore, they're part of society and so long as people who say oh we don't want to be with them I find it scandalous. It's been in the statutory books, we've had the Disability Discrimination Act since 1995 and the third part came in on October 1st 2004 saying that it is unlawful to give disabled people a different service than non-disabled people.

ROBINSON
Even if they're making a lot of noise during what would I suppose ideally be a quiet audience?

WOODWARD
As you've already said the general public are general public - mobile phones go off, people cough, sneeze, whatever - it's part of being an audience.

ROBINSON
Mark Shenton, at the time did you not consider perhaps that your enjoyment of the show was maybe a little less important than hurting the feelings of this group or their leader?

SHENTON
Well when mobile phones go off, to cite that example, I mean people are asked - Richard Griffiths has famously stopped the show and told them to leave. So - and you don't consider their feelings. I understand obviously there's a very different story here which is that these are involuntary actions but in fact as a result it makes it harder to predict when it's going to happen, I mean these disturbances were occurring in key moments of the show where it was completely destroying the production. I mean ultimately I was there to do a job, which was to review the show, and my ability to do that was being compromised. Whoever that disturbance comes from I would have objected to.

ROBINSON
Okay we'll have to leave it there. Thank you all for taking part.

Back to the You and Yours homepage

The BBC is not responsible for external websites

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy