Watching the World Cup on your phone while at the theater isn’t a good idea

Before the age of mobile phones, perhaps the worst distraction for a theater actor would be an audience member coughing at a crucial moment in the performance.

Today, despite numerous warnings to switch smartphones off before a show begins, actors have to deal regularly with the excruciating annoyance of handsets suddenly going off.

Imagine: “To be or not to be, that is the — RIIIINNGGGG!!! RIIIINNNGGGG!!!

News from the BBC this week suggests the situation has taken a turn for the worse, with people now happily following the trials and tribulations of their World Cup soccer team while sitting in the front row of a theater during a show.

It happened on Tuesday, July3 at the Theatre Royal in Nottingham, U.K., during a performance of Titanic: The Musical just as England embarked on a nail-biting penalty shootout against Colombia for a place in the quarter finals of the soccer tournament. And worse than simply watching the shootout, they celebrated each England penalty success with an enthusiastic “yesss!” … and fist pumps.

Whereas 15 years ago all actors would likely do about such an interruption was grumble in the dressing room, now they can take to social media to vent their anger.

And that’s exactly what they did.

One of the show’s performers, Niall Sheehy, hit Twitter to let everyone know what had happened, describing the two soccer fans as “the most ignorant audience members I have ever had the misfortune to perform in front of.”

In another, Sheehy was even more incredulous, telling the pair to “avoid attending any future theatrical productions.”

That apparently caused him some social media strife, prompting another post:

Another actor in the show, Kieran Brown, said he was “dumbfounded” that the two women could behave in such a way during one of the show’s most poignant moments.

The theater also weighed in, apologizing to both the actors and to any audience members who may have been distracted by the front row shenanigans.

The incident brings to mind a similar episode in 2014 when an audience member’s phone started ringing during a play featuring Kevin Spacey. The actor, who was on stage for a courtroom scene, reportedly stayed in character and barked at the culprit, “If you don’t answer that, I will.”

Someone’s noisy phone even halted a performance by the New York Philharmonic, while in 2015 actor Benedict Cumberbatch pleaded with audience members to stop filming him when he was on stage.

Pointing out that some smartphone users seem to spend much of their time experiencing one-off events through their smartphone display rather than enjoying them without holding their handsets in front of their face, Cumberbatch said, “I can’t give you what I want to give you, which is a live performance that you’ll remember, hopefully, in your minds and brains whether it’s good, bad, or indifferent, rather than on your phones.”

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