On Tuesday evening, two women in Nottingham solved the impossible dilemma of having tickets for Titanic: The Musical and also wanting to watch England play Colombia in the World Cup by simply doing both at the same time. By the power of smartphones, football was indeed coming home, or at least to the front row of the Theatre Royal.

An actor from the production, Niall Sheehy, tweeted his irritation at these ticket buyers “who not only followed the penalty shootout on their phone,” he huffed, “but also said ‘yesss’ on each goal scored, you are the most ignorant audience members I have ever had the misfortune to perform in front of.” I might be confusing the musical with the movie here, but I feel even Rose DeWitt Bukater might have been watching that particular penalty shootout as the ship went down. “Dier’s up, move over Jack.”

According to Sheehy, these women were so oblivious to the irritation of the cast that they gave a thumbs-up towards the stage during curtain call to let them know that England had won. It’s hard not to be charmed by their dedication to at least one performance that night, and in a way, I admire their gumption. I have experienced plenty of annoying theatre audience moments (a special mention here to the chronic manspreader at Hamilton, whose casual attitude towards leg space was the least laid-back thing about him as he kept nodding off and letting out content little snores for much of the show). For the most part, it’s an expensive hobby, and of course it’s bad manners not to let people who have paid a lot of money for their night out concentrate on the action.

I wince a little when I hear stories like this. Anyone who goes to the theatre can see by a quick look around that it is still overwhelmingly posh and white and old, and the idea that there’s a strict code of etiquette perpetuates the notion that this is how it should be; that you can’t suck a Werther’s Original too loudly in case you interrupt that crucial bit of any Shakespeare play where everyone dies.

Hushed reverence at public performances, from classical music to theatre, is a relatively recent invention, to keep the riff-raff out; it sounds as if attending plays in Shakespeare’s day, all tobacco and ale and raucous banter, was more closing time on a bank holiday than church service. It kept the playwrights and the actors on their toes, because they were forced to earn the audience’s attention, rather than just expect it.

Scarlett Johannson may get the roles, but she’s a poor listener

Scarlett Johansson plays a Japanese character in Ghost in the Shell.



Scarlett Johansson faced criticism for playing a Japanese character in Ghost in the Shell. Photograph: Jasin Boland/AP

Every actor is wary of being typecast, but few take Scarlett Johansson’s extreme approach to avoiding it. Johansson is to play Dante “Tex” Gill in the biopic Rub & Tug, directed by Rupert Sanders, which tells the story of the notorious Pittsburgh brothel owner and crime boss, who was also a trans man. Not that you’d know it from the trade announcements, which referred to Gill as “she” throughout. Johansson faced similar ire over her role in Ghost in the Shell, the previous film she made with Sanders, in which she played a Japanese character.

Many trans actors were frustrated by the decision not to cast a trans person in the role, and Trace Lysette, who starred in Transparent, articulated her irritation on Twitter: “Not only do you play us and steal our narrative and our opportunity but you pat yourself on the back with trophies and accolades for mimicking what we have lived.”

Inevitably, there was a loud cry of, “It’s acting! Why can’t everyone pretend to be everyone if it’s only make-believe?”, ignoring the fact that trans performers are being very clear about their lack of opportunities, and that it is galling when even trans roles are being hoovered up by non-trans actors.

It doesn’t seem so hard to listen to what we’re being told by those whose life experiences are being borrowed.

But it is clearly hard once again for Sanders, and for Johansson, who offered the following tone-deaf response through a rep, citing other non-trans actors who have played trans characters: “Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment.” Not only are they not listening, with a statement like that, they’re not listening twice. We can only hope that Rub & Tug will emulate the enormous box office success of Ghost in the Shell.

Jordan’s teenage tweets were endearing, not embarrassing

Jordan Pickford saves a penalty in the England v Colombia match in Moscow.



Jordan Pickford saves a penalty in the England v Colombia match in Moscow. Photograph: Kommersant Photo Agency/Rex/Shutterstock

In the same way that you play a little mental game of “#MeToo or dead?” when you see a male celebrity’s name trending, the words “teen tweets unearthed” strike fear into the heart of anyone who has been impressed by a figure in the public eye. So I held my breath when I saw that the “teen tweets” headline had come for England’s goalkeeper, Jordan Pickford.

Happily, there was no racism, no sexism, no classism, no need for a time-honoured “I regret the inappropriate language, I do not hold those beliefs today and am older and wiser” moment.

Instead, in 2012, Pickford was wishing his parents would pay for him to have Sky in his room because “Freeview is soul-destroying at this time of night” (11.45pm, and he’s not wrong). He worried about his skin (“wow, my spots are massive”) and wondered what to do at the shopping centre with the money his mum had given him. If one thing comes out of this World Cup, it should be that, at the very least, Jordan Pickford finally gets Sky in his bedroom.

Rebecca Nicholson is an Observer columnist





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