London theatres may ban phones after illicit photos of James Norton published, experts say

London theatres may consider taking audiences’ phones away during performances after naked photos of James Norton were published by the Daily Mail.

The Happy Valley star currently appears in the stage adaptation of the 2015 novel A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, which involves a nude scene for his character Jude.

After the show’s opening at the Richmond Theatre, illicit photos of the actor were published and then quickly taken down by the Mail following backlash on Twitter. However, they were also printed on pages one and three of the Mail’s physical paper.

The Independent has contacted the Daily Mail for comment. The Ambassador Theatres Group and representatives for Norton both declined to comment.

West End publicist of 30 years Kevin Wilson called the tabloid “immoral” and “sickening” on Twitter as others pointed out that the theatre had put stickers over phone cameras and shared materials stating that filming was not allowed.

Speaking to The Independent, Wilson said it was down to the show’s producers as to how much restrictions were in place for their shows.

“You put a sticker over the back of a phone – what use is that? You can just peel it off,” he said. “It should be a condition of entry that you have to hand over your phone.”

Alistair Smith, the editor of the Stage newspaper told The Guardian: “I’d be very surprised if this latest incident doesn’t act as a trigger for it to become the norm for audiences to have to put their phones in lockboxes at shows starring famous people or with musical numbers that people want to film.”

Likewise, Dr Kirsty Sedgman, editor of the book series Audience Research and author of On Being Unreasonable, told the publication that the photos were so clearly an “absolute violation of the unwritten contract between audiences and performers” that it could lead to change.

James Norton (Getty Images)
James Norton (Getty Images)

“It could well be that this is the incident that shocks theatres and actors to the point that all performances will deny people their phones entirely by compelling them to use lockboxes and bags,” she said.

Wilson pointed out that for the recent Broadway play Take Me Out, audiences had to have mobile phones sealed in magnetic pouches, but not even that was sufficient to stop Grey’s Anatomy star Jesse Williams being filmed nude.

“The least you can do is introduce a sealable pocket, which is no more than a small hindrance to people. I’m sorry, but if you’ve got someone at home who might need to contact you urgently, you shouldn’t be at the theatre.

“I think this is the least the producers can do to protect the actors and I think the actors deserve nothing less.”

Williams responded to the leak at the time, stating: “It’s a body, once you see it, you realise it’s whatever, it’s a boy!”

“I just have to make it not that big of a deal,” he told Watch What Happens Live After Show.

In a recent interview with The Telegraph, Norton said the level of nudity in A Little Life was “new for me, and massively exposing”.

However, “without [nudity], the story and the piece would suffer; none of it is gratuitous,” he said.

“My god, it’s shaming, you know, I lie on the floor naked being kicked and spat on – and it doesn’t get much more degrading than that. I’m there, there’s no journey I have to go on. It’s really embarrassing and horrible.”

A Little Life opens at the Harold Pinter Theatre on 25 March and runs until 18 June.