WHAT’S going wrong in our theatres? Once a place of dinner suits and evening dresses, of soft voices and gentle manners, the only loud noise to be heard was the shouts of “Bravo!” at the end of a remarkable performance.

And anger was confined to the frustrated director who couldn’t achieve the performance he or she hoped for.

Now? All too often, theatre halls have to rely upon bouncers. Edinburgh Playhouse theatre director Colin Marr this week declared that he was “disgusted and angry” at the unacceptable behaviour directed towards his staff.

One person was punched and another pushed and spat upon.

Last week, staff at the King’s Theatre in Glasgow issued a social media appeal, asking audiences not to join in on the singing during the likes of The Bodyguard, and “to be kind and stay quiet”.

Still Game actor Paul Riley agrees the problem of theatre aggression has been building in recent years. “During the first Still Game show at the Hydro, I was aware there was a huge rammy going on.

READ MORE: Edinburgh and Glasgow theatre bosses row sparked by alcohol sale

“Then during the third run, an almighty fight broke out in the gods that resulted in one guy kicking another man in the head, who fell against the Perspex barriers at the edge of the seating and burst his head open.”

He adds, shaking his head in disbelief; “And it turned out the guy who did the kicking was a head teacher.”

Comedian Kevin Bridges had to increase security at his Ovo Hydro gigs after a series of fights broke out, with men and women being thrown out of the venue.

But why would people pay to enter an entertainment venue, a place of laughter and escape, only to create trouble?

Theatre producer Robert C. Kelly, currently staging a tour of Menopause The Musical (2) says the problem is down to increased alcohol consumption. And he says the aggression emerges most in audiences predominately made up of women. “It’s mostly women who buy theatre tickets, and we seem to have a societal problem now whereby so many women associate a night at the theatre with becoming slaughtered drunk.

The Herald: Still Game theatre showStill Game theatre show (Image: free)

“They come into theatres having been drinking and then drink even more when they arrive. And when they go along to see shows such as Jersey Boys, Dirty Dancing or The Bodyguard, they know all the words and feel they need to sing along all night long. That causes problems for those who simply want to hear the songs being sung by the performers on stage.”

The producer says theatres have to toughen up. “When I stage The Dolls shows, for example, I insist on theatres providing 10 extra security staff, and at the first sign of trouble the offenders are thrown out.

“That sends a message. And I also send out warnings with tickets that bad behaviour will be dealt with. But I feel that in too many cases the venues are a too lenient, and that allows situations to get out of hand.”

The Glasgow Pavilion manager Iain Gordon maintains that audience behaviour has worsened since theatres reopened after the pandemic. “Audiences used to come into theatres and be respectful, of the acts and of others around them. But this has changed.

“Perhaps it’s because there was a period of isolation, and then the sense of being released and thinking ‘Too hell with it.’

“But the common factor certainly is alcohol and certain theatres and venues have to take responsibility for that.

“They allow drink to be sold in plastic glasses, with no limit to the amount of drinks purchased, and people return to their seat, get caught up in the performance and it all goes wild. The licensing boards need to act to contain the sale of drink.”

He adds: “Young people aren’t the problem. They don’t drink that much. Nor do we generally have many problems with men.

“We’ve run theatre show such as Rally Roon The Rangers, for example, and had no issues.

“The danger nights have been the likes of women coming along to an Elvis tribute show, have three double vodkas and whatever else they’ve got in their handbags, and then start to sing. Loud. And then they fight with the woman in the row in front who can’t hear Elvis.”

He adds; “We’ve even had to throw one woman out for using racist language, and another drunk who was peeing in the ladies toilet sink. You couldn’t make it up.”