Premature evacuation

If this wasn't evidence of a slip in etiquette, it was at least a worrying trend.
Messiah by English National Opera at the London Coliseum

The stage may be crowded, but what about the auditorium? ... The English National Opera perform Messiah at the London Coliseum. Photograph: Tristram Kenton

Eddie Izzard didn’t look happy, and I wasn’t surprised. He’d been riffing his comedic heart out for the past two hours, he’d finished with a flourish, he’d obeyed the calls for an encore. And when he stepped back out on to the stage, what did he find? An audience on its feet, yes; but on its feet because it was shrugging on its coats and filing down the aisles, not ovating the jazz chicken skit. I struggled to watch his finale over the heads of the leavers, mildly surprised by their lack of gratitude and grace. Only mildly, mind. Standup has always been a casual affair, and comedians used to bottle-throwing and heckling are unlikely to be miffed by a few punters ignoring the curtain call. More specifically, theO2 can be hell to escape after a show, and you can hardly blame tired Monday-night commuters for trying to beat the rush.

But it happened again the next night, this time in the rarefied atmosphere of the Coliseum after a beautiful three-hour performance ofENO’s Messiah. Now I was surprised. By the time the conductor came on to thank the orchestra, he faced a sea of cashmere-clad backs heading for St Martin’s Lane.


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