We Will Rock You stopped by audience punch-up

The Queen musical We Will Rock You came to an abrupt halt in Birmingham on Saturday night, due to an audience incident.

We Will Rock You

The musical We Will Rock You, based around the music of Queen, has been celebrating its 20th birthday in time honoured fashion, with a UK tour. The show has popped up in my home town this month, playing to packed houses at the Birmingham Hippodrome as the latest leg in its tour.

However, theatregoers attending the Saturday 23rd July performance – the evening one, not the matinee – got quite the surprise ten or 15 minutes into the second act. The cast walked off the stage, the safety curtain came down, and the show stopped dead.

The problem had been bubbling for a little while. I was in the audience – it wasn’t me that caused the trouble – and chatting to one or two others who were closer to what happened than me, the problems begin in the first half. Two attendees in particular had been availing themselves of the bar, and were considerably the worse for wear. This became clear as they disrupted the first half of the show for those sat near to them, and using language that led parents to shelter the ears of their children.

This bit I can only tell you second hand: that complaints had gone into the theatre during the interval, but the rest of the show was allowed to carry on. However, the interruptions continued, and eventually, the show had to be stopped. From our vantage point, we could see the band abandon their positions too, as safety protocols kicked in. We were near to a monitor where we could see the stage area behind the curtain completely cleared.

We Will Rock You

Photo: Johan Persson

Meanwhile, back in the auditorium, ushers finally managed to remove the two unruly audience members, but not before they broke out into a fight. It took a little time to ‘persuade them to exit’, and when they left it was to one of the most generous rounds of applause of the night. It still took some time to reset things, but We Will Rock You picked back up from the point it left off, to a huge roar from a newly-energised audience.

Ushers around us were radioed that there was going to be an announcement before the show got back up and running. As the safety curtain lifted to another loud chair, we were simply told “the show must go on”.

The theatre offered no further explanation and the rest of We Will Rock You continued uninterrupted. But for this audience member at least, it’s a first: I’ve never sat in a theatre showing that had to be stopped because of a pissed up fight between two members of the audience. But heck, that’s 20th birthday parties for you…

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