London Theatres Outfit Staff With Body Cameras to Handle Rowdy Attendees
After experiencing a rise in aggressive behavior from guests, theatres in London’s West End are using body cameras to deter audience members from being abusive toward staff.
- By Haley Samsel
- Aug 14, 2019
After facing down aggressive behavior from attendees, security workers and ushers working in London’s West End theatres are stepping up their security operations with technology typically associated with police officers: body cameras.
Seven theatres with the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre have partnered with the security company Calla to try out body cameras for front-of-house staff in hopes of de-escalating incidents with guests, The Stage, a British theater newspaper, reported last month.
Phill Brown, the society’s head of risk and safety, told The Stage that the theatres had seen more problems with audience behavior and “increasing levels of aggression towards staff” in recent years. Part of the issue is alcohol consumption, he said.
“When you mix alcohol with the theatre environment that can exacerbate situations and we want to try to manage that before it becomes a major problem within our industry,” Brown said.
The incidents became so upsetting that some security guards and other staff were refusing to work at certain shows or at particular times of the week, particularly weekend evenings, Brown said.
A three-month trial at one theatre earned positive feedback from staff and helped to de-escalate volatile audience members, Brown said. The cameras can be clipped to belts or shirts and have front-facing screens that show the video footage as it is being recorded.
“I think just the fact that people can see themselves behaving in an unpleasant way can sometimes be enough to calm themselves down so they walk away from the situation before it turns into something more significant,” Brown said. “So I think body cameras can make a difference.”
Some ushers say the audiences for “jukebox musicals” — “Mamma Mia!” and “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical” among them — are known for having the worst behaved audiences, but other, more formal shows have had their own share of challenges, The New York Times reported. One incident included a theater producer being punched after asking a woman to stop using her phone during a performance.
For their part, some audience members think the cameras are a “brilliant” idea.
“I’m all for people having a little bit of a laugh, but it’s a thin line when you’re spoiling it for others,” Emma Simpson, who attended a performance for her bachelorette party, told the Times.
Haley Samsel is an Associate Content Editor for the Infrastructure Solutions Group at 1105 Media.