AT the beginning of the second week of the Festival, Edinburgh’s own Dunedin Consort took to the stage of the Usher Hall to present Handel’s Samson with a luxury cast of soloists. Director John Butt being the man he is, this was a historically-informed performance, to the extent that the intervals of a long evening were filled with more music, as would have happened in the composer’s day.

Leaving aside other problems in creating an authentic 18th century environment for the music (and the Usher Hall can never be that), Professor Butt’s intention was always inescapably going to be lumbered with a 21st century audience. How does it measure up to earlier watchers and listeners?

In some ways better, in others worse, is probably the equivocal answer, but at this year’s Festival it has often behaved very badly indeed, in its modern way.

The nadir for me was the final performance of clever Belgian dance/film collaboration Cold Blood at the King’s Theatre. This was a work that sometimes made it hard to decide what and where to watch as puppetry and perspective, models and movement, played out live and on the screen above the performers. Concentration was required, but was hampered by fellow occupants of the stalls who, amongst other things: thought it was OK to sit on the floor in the aisles, until they were told not to; decided to move to seats other than the ones they had paid for mid-performance; commented to one another audibly and then burst into gleeful inappropriate applause when they fleetingly caught a glimpse of themselves onscreen as a camera panned to include the auditorium – not unlike fans at a sports arena or outdoor music festival. It was a “selfie” moment for an altogether selfish crowd. This lot – an extreme example, but of an observable tendency this year – were also regularly reprimanded by ushers for consulting, or photographing with, their mobile phones.

Except perhaps at the Queen’s Hall morning chamber recitals, I cannot think of an event where I haven’t seen an instance of imbecilic mobile device deployment, although every performance is prefaced by a request that the audience desist. Observably it is not the young who are the worst offenders. For many of younger people, it seems that the novelty of the gizmos has worn off. Older folk, however, now seem unable to switch off their device and put it beyond use for the duration of a show.

People of the same vintage as myself or older were on their phones in front of me at Waiting for Godot in the Lyceum and at the Barber of Seville in the Festival Theatre, while some of the world’s finest performers were giving their all on the stage in front of them.

Among concertgoers at the Usher Hall the problem is endemic and the front of house staff have been forced to instruct audience members to put their phones away at everything I have attended – and almost always older patrons. I have watched someone attempt to film the opening of a popular concerto, while those in the most expensive seats prove unable to resist the urge to check their emails and reply to messages during the music. One group turned out to be invited guests of the visiting London orchestra.

My suspicion is that the sense of perspective younger people are showing to this addiction is a precursor to what will have to happen. Just as speed limits and other safety restrictions were imposed with general agreement or, more recently, smoking in public places was accepted with virtually no dissent, some sort of commonsense will eventually prevail over the use of mobile devices. It may take the introduction of formal restrictions and even statute to bring it about, but just like slower traffic and the smoking ban, we’ll all be the better off for it.