Belfast Telegraph

Don't make a drama out of your cough, just exit stage left

By Gail Walker

Having spent several evenings of late at the theatre, I have to say that the population of Northern Ireland is suffering either from a secret epidemic of tuberculosis or from chronic exhibitionism.

Nothing else can account for the nasty habit people have of coughing, spluttering, hawking and barking in public places. You don't notice it, of course, in the open air or in the normal run of work, but once there is a need for silence - as during a play - the orchestra of tonsils and dry throats can be heard loud and clear, blocking out words, phrases and whole sentences.

Sometimes, the noise is so extreme, one expects to see doctors rushing up the aisles. Of course, they never do.

Whether this is a nervous tic brought on simply by being in a public place or in the dark or just uncomfortable, it has become a menace to live performance, outstripping ringtones from phones that haven't been switched to silent and the Weak Ulster Bladder which compels otherwise normal people to head for the loos twice every hour. It doesn't matter much during rock concerts or even at the movies, where electronic loudness is the norm, but it's still there, nonetheless. And during a play, it is distracting and socially unacceptable.

Cut it out, people. You don't need to behave like you're in a death scene on stage. Leave that to the actors who are paid for it.

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