Edinburgh Playhouse Staff Praised by Customers for Dealing with “Abusive” Audience Members

This week Edinburgh Live and the Daily Record have posted articles in regards to customers being ejected from the Edinburgh Playhouse. Theatre Scotland has been contacted by several theatre goers who have seen the behaviour of the customers featured in the articles and others over the last two weeks at ‘Bat Out of Hell’. 

A customer who attended the matinee performance of ‘Bat Out of Hell’ on Saturday 12th February got in contact with us after seeing Miss Hazel Robertson’s story via the Edinburgh Live site. Miss Robertson claims that Edinburgh Playhouse staff “frog marched” her disabled father (Jim Clelland) out of the theatre, and also caused her to have a serious panic attack. Our source who wishes to remain anonymous claims that Miss Robertson’s story is “nonsense”. 

“I nipped out of my row in the circle to go to the toilet, as I got to the top of the stairs there was an elderly man in front of me walking towards the exit. As soon as he got to the exit, he started shouting abuse at staff who were congregated outside dealing with other customers. A woman who was already in the foyer began shouting about how the man was her father.  She then began screaming, swearing and shouting hysterically, pointing her phone violently in staff’s faces. Absolutely disgraceful behaviour, never seen anything like it.”  

“I felt very uncomfortable and sorry for the staff. I walked slowly up the stairs to the ladies toilet listening in. The man and woman were both still screaming at the staff, all because they had been told to stop singing and dancing. The woman had clearly had a lot to drink. The staff were all very calm and professional.” The source has identified the man and woman as Miss Robertson and Mr Clelland from the photo featured in the Edinburgh Live article.  

When returning from the toilet our source states that the situation hadn’t gotten much better; “As soon as I got out of the toilet, I heard hysterical screaming. As I began to walk down the stairs to the foyer, I could see the woman was on the floor screaming and shouting hysterically. The man was in a wheelchair, he seemed to have calmed down and was being wheeled towards the woman by a member of security, while it seems a member of staff was attempting to comfort and calm down the woman.”  

Our source was asked to return to her seat, which she did and enjoyed the rest of the show, however after spotting the man and woman in the Edinburgh Live article, she was horrified by their accounts. “Their story is utter nonsense; he left his seat himself and did not get frog marched anywhere, security were pushing him about the Playhouse in his wheelchair because his daughter had worked herself that much into a frenzy that she was unable to help her father. They were being very ignorant and abusing staff, which is unacceptable. The woman videoed everything so if she really wanted to show how traumatic an experience it was, she would have uploaded that. However, I don’t think that would have suited her story. The fact that a member of staff who looked like a first aider was clearly assisting the woman and security were reassuring the man after the pair had shouted abuse at them tells you everything you need to know about the generosity of the Playhouse staff. They never stepped out of line once in the few minutes I observed, even in a pressure cooker situation like that the staff kept level heads.”  

Our source then went onto explain why she thinks this type of disturbance happened at ‘Bat Out of Hell’; “The problem is Bat Out of Hell is a bloody marvelous musical, not a concert and it is clear that many people were there to treat it like a concert. I used to go to the Playhouse regularly but this was the first time I had went to a show since 2020, so for me it was a special day but if I was next to those two it would have been ruined. I paid £54 to listen to the performers not a drunken father and daughter who should be in a karaoke bar not a theatre.” 

Theatre Scotland reached out to several other vocal customers, one of them was Kirsteen Allan who stated “I am disabled and go to The Playhouse Theatre often. The staff there have never been anything other than courteous towards me and have often gone out of their way to help. I went to see ‘Bat Out of Hell’ 3 times during the Edinburgh run. I was born with a respiratory condition, so I approached a member of staff outside to explain that I wouldn’t be able to stand in such lengthy queues. I was very breathless, he signaled me to stop talking and asked if I was ok. When I assured him I was, he got me straight in to sit down. I think there is always two sides to every story.” 

Lauren Watt posted about her ‘Bat Out of Hell’ experience stating “’I’m not usually one to complain about audience etiquette but I was there on Saturday and the behaviour was appalling. Singing along, booing the villain and one guy even shouted “he’s behind you” in the middle of act two. Two ladies beside me were either singing along or talking the whole show. I get it’s a jukebox of a popular show and I even didn’t really mind the singing during the big chorus numbers as the audience were pretty much drowned out but when Martha Kirby was singing ‘Heaven Can Wait’ and all I could hear were drunk audience members it was a little disappointing.” 

Finally, Steve Smith also commented, praising the way that the staff were handling the antisocial behaviour; “I fully support this type of theatre policing. It’s as if the pandemic has made people forget that they are not passively watching a pre-record on Netflix at home; they are watching a live experience with other people, who are impacted by poor behaviour, with a live cast who can see you when you’re acting disrespectfully. If you don’t like it, don’t go to the theatre – wait for the inevitable movie adaptation and watch it at home, where you can sing, check your phone, bang your pots and pans and do whatever you want.” 

Theatre Scotland reached out to the Edinburgh Playhouse for a statement on the matters surrounding ‘Bat Out of Hell’, their spokesperson had this to say; “We want everyone to have a great night out, but unless the show has a ‘Singalong’ in the title, or is invited by the performers, audience participation is not encouraged. This is partly out of respect for the actors, but is mainly in consideration for the majority who have paid to listen to the performances taking place on stage. 

This is not a new policy within any theatre and persistent anti-social behaviour towards other audience members or our staff will not be tolerated.” 

Theatre goers need to understand that they can’t just get away with behaving however they like. Causing a scene because they enjoyed one too many wines at the interval is inexcusable. They also shouldn’t then be running to a news outlet in an attempt to play down their behaviour and blame theatre staff when they were simply doing their jobs, protecting themselves and other audience members. 

Theatre Scotland stands firmly with the Edinburgh Playhouse and their staff members, as we believe like many theatres up and down the UK, they are currently facing a difficult period where uncourteous audience members are causing severe issues during performances. This is unacceptable and we believe the media should not be encouraging this appalling behaviour. 

Written by Sam Eastop.