It was interesting to read the different reactions to the story of Dame Helen Mirren unleashing a barrage of four letter abuse at a large drumming band which was playing outside the theatre in which she was performing.
Dame Helen, who is recreating her iconic role as the Queen, was performing in the acclaimed play The Audience at the Gielgud Theatre in Soho, when the large group of drummers stopped nearby and continued to play - loudly. The rhythm and volume of the drumming allegedly made the end of the first act of the play very difficult to concentrate on – both for the audience and even more so for the actors.
And so the leading lady stormed outside during the interval, still in full costume as Her Majesty, and used some rather shocking ‘thesbian’ words to try and get some peace for the next act.
I can’t imagine what the sight and sound of the Queen using rather un-regal language at a huge group of street performers must have been like for any passers-by. Nonetheless, apparently they did stop playing soon after and were very ‘sweet’ to Dame Helen once they understood the issue.
Some commentators have suggested that it was in appropriate for her to do such a thing - that the drumming group had every right to play in the street in Soho and it wasn’t their fault that the sound proofing in the 100 year old theatre was, well, 100 years old. There have also been some comments that she was being elitist because she felt her theatrical production should take precedence over some music open to all in the street. But surely the point is that everyone needs to just take some responsibility about how their actions and their noise (whatever it is) can and does have a massive impact on others.
Sound pollution is a huge problem and I don’t just mean with regard to bad insulation. It seems to me that a lot of the problem is born out of people not understanding (or perhaps caring) how intrusive unwanted noise can be. How many times have you cursed the driver of another car whose music is so loud that you can feel yourself vibrate in time to it? I can never understand how those drivers don’t have blood trickling out of their ears due to the pressure that sound system must put on them.
And it’s not only music which is this irritating - the human voice can of course be deeply annoying in the wrong environment too, for example on public transport. I have no issue with people taking phone-calls on the bus or train, but people doing this really should attempt to keep their voice down and the call short.
When on the tube recently I had no choice but to listen to someone arguing on the phone with their partner about what seemed to be a very personal issue. I heard every word of both sides of the argument and at one point thought of butting in (like a mobile Clare Rayner) to offer relationship advice to them both. Of course I didn’t, mainly through fear of being thumped. The point is, what I actually wanted was a peaceful journey, not to feel like I was caught in the middle of a very vociferous argument.
Maybe it’s just that I’m getting older and less patient, but other noises which make my hackles rise include the nocturnal nightmare that is the unattended car alarm and the ignored yet consistent screams of an unruly young child (particularly on a plane - I have every sympathy but attend to the child please!). And of course there’s that muffled yet deeply aggravating and intrusive sound of someone else’s headphones.
I know I’m turning into a grumpy old woman, but remember that no man is an island (except maybe Fred Madagascar), so bear in mind that as all of us can create noise which affects everyone around us, please let’s keep the volume down!