Sunday, 30 December 2012

Is it OK to boo in a theatre?

My wife and I had our annual Christmas theatre trip on Friday, going to the Southwark Playhouse to see something called ‘Feathers in the Snow’ by Philip Ridley. The preview blurb made it look interesting, a tale for all the family with a dark edge, but ten minutes into the show we knew had made a bad choice.

It was theatre at its worst; clunky, with a plot that rattled along too quickly and become very repetitive, and hitting the audience over the head with a moralistic message that stated the obvious point that war is bad. I could imagine it being served up in a school hall by a travelling theatre group as part of an educational programme, but even on that basis it worked badly and it was way short of the minimum standard I’d expect from anything that gets into a regular theatre.

But we endured it. It’s partly because we’re both inclined to stick out a performance of any kind to the end; although we were also conscious that the young cast were trying very hard to make the best of a bad job. But we were bored rotten, and by the second half I was wondering if it would be acceptable to start booing.

I’ve always thought there are occasions when it’s OK voice displeasure at a bad performance. If you pay good money to sit and watch something you’re entitled to let those responsible know that you’re disappointed. It happens at football, when the home team plays badly and their supporters give the players some verbal stick. It’s part of the blooding for stand-up comedians to get booed offstage. And a few bands have suffered far worse in being chased off stage by flying bottles at rock festivals.

I wouldn’t boo during a performance; there’s a chance that some other members of the audience are enjoying themselves and it wouldn’t be fair to spoil it for them. But surely it’s OK to abstain from the round of applause at the end of the show and let loose a bellow of disdain? After all, I had just forked out £16 to waste two hours that would have been better spent at home on the sofa.

In the end I didn’t. Maybe I didn’t want to upset the actors. Maybe I was too polite. Maybe I’ve been conditioned by the idea that booing isn’t something that you do in a theatre, even if you’ve just been subjected to two hours of torture by boredom. But for what it’s worth, I can now offer a one word review: “Boooooooooo!”

Mark Say's collection of fiction, Perversities of Faith, is available on and Also check out

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

In defence of digital

We’ve heard a few more cries about the dominance of digital today, with the transition of The Dandy from a print to an online publication. As always happens at times like this, voices have been raised bemoaning the fact that they will no longer be able to caress a paper copy of the comic and that readers will struggle to cherish the contents of the digital version in the same way.

People have said similar things about other publications, and we often hear it about music. It was just yesterday that I got around to watching the BBC4 documentary, ‘The Joy of the Single’, which included a string of laments for the vinyl 45 and complaints that no-one can feel the same about digital downloads.

There may be an element of truth in this for a lot of readers and music fans, but there’s a good reason that digital has taken over. It’s easier to manage, and when you get into serious listening or reading the accumulation of records, magazines or books places a serious strain on your living space. Big collections of hard copies are wonderful thing in many respects, but they’re also a pain in the arse, and it’s a lot easier to accommodate a pile of digital files.

And it’s important to point out that all that staring at and fondling of books and records is only a secondary pleasure, and should only be worth a fraction of what people get out of reading or listening. Anyone who places more value on the cover art and liner notes of a record, or the feel of a book in their hand, than what the contents do to their hearts and minds has it all wrong. You still get the sounds and words from a digital file.

Be honest, digital is taking over because we’re all acquiring a lot more stuff; and there are certain types of stuff that are a lot easier to keep when you can stick them on a computer. Stop worrying about it and enjoy.

Mark Say's collection of fiction, Perversities of Faith, is available on and Also check out