SOMETHING definitely not entertaining has been happening in many of the country’s theatres and apparently we’ve only got ourselves to blame.

Without us really noticing, audience behaviour has become centre-stage and it’s not a situation with a happy ending.

While probably you and I always thought that theatres were places you paid to visit to see a show or a favourite entertainer. You might enjoy a drink in the bar beforehand, possibly order drinks for the interval, and then you took your seat.

Only last year, the system seemed simple. You sat there, hopefully enjoying what you paid to see on stage, and then at the interval you got up to get your drinks, chat, possibly go to the loo.

Wrong. At many theatres these days, the bar remains open throughout the show and, unfortunately, this, combined with a horribly selfish approach from some people means many members of the audience behave badly.

Let me tell you what happened at the Southport Theatre last weekend. Ken Dodd was appearing and the modern auditorium was packed – Sir Ken is extremely popular even at nearly 90.

The show had just started and Sir Ken was getting into his stride when the audience seemed to get into theirs. Three men who had arrived late and sat in front of us, chatting loudly, decided to get up and, pushing through the row, went for more drinks.

They were by no means the only ones. There was a steady stream of people all over the stalls simply vacating their seats at odd times and wandering in the direction of the bar for drinks before wandering noisily back.

This was an inter-active show with the audience invited to sing along to the hits they knew but some took this a little far. Soon, a couple were shouting out mindless ramblings in the direction of Sir Ken (who, as a complete professional, turned the heckling back on them).

There was shouting out at inappropriate times which, combined with the wandering bar-bound hordes, created a surreal atmosphere like nothing I’ve ever encountered before.

What on earth was going on? I mentioned this to my twenty-something niece who informed me that none of this was unusual in theatres these days. Such behaviour was disappointingly common.

So the next time you’re at the theatre, don’t forget to allow for the audience’s “performance” throughout. Sadly, it’s riveting.