London theater tests new staff bodycams to deter rowdy audiences

Posted at 5:56 AM, Jul 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-17 07:56:29-04

A theater in London’s West End has introduced mini body cameras for staff, in a bid to discourage rowdy audience behavior.

The industry groups Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre have teamed up with security company Calla to prevent aggression against staff, according to Phill Brown, head of risk and safety at the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre.

Brown told CNN that a West End venue is conducting a three-month trial of the body cameras after anecdotal evidence emerged of an increasing number of incidents involving aggression against theater staff.

Staff involved in the trial have reported that they feel more confident in dealing with unruly members of the public when wearing the camera, according to Brown. “The tool definitely helped calm the situation,” he said.

The cameras have a screen on one side that displays the image being recorded, much like the cameras used at some self-service grocery store checkouts. This means people can see themselves as if through the camera lens, which is effective in calming them down, according to Ben Read, marketing manager at Calla.

“It’s almost like bringing a mirror up to them,” Read told CNN.

When people are aware they are being recorded, and can see the aggressive behavior they are exhibiting, it can help to defuse a situation, he added. “There’s been a lot of positive feedback,” Read said of the ongoing trial.

Brown is keen to emphasize that the body cameras are not mandatory, and each venue is free to set its own policy on their use.

“We haven’t got a major problem and we don’t want to have a major problem,” he said. “It’s more of a proactive, preventative measure.”

Throwing alcohol into the mix

It has also been suggested that the changing behavior of theater audiences could be a factor in the issue.

“When you mix in alcohol with the theater environment then that can exacerbate situations and we want to try to manage that before it becomes a major problem within our industry,” said Brown in a statement on the UK Theatre website.

Several incidents have shone a light on the problem in recent years.

In June 2018, a fight broke out between two “middle-aged blokes” at the National Theatre in London, according to eyewitnesses who posted about the incident on Twitter.

And UK theater industry publication The Stage reported that a man was punched by a fellow audience member in a row over using a cell phone during a performance of “A Christmas Carol” in London in December 2017.