London theatres ‘could ban phones’ after photos of James Norton leaked

James Norton (PA Wire)
James Norton (PA Wire)

West End theatres could decide to lock away audience members’ mobile phones, after nude images of James Norton appearing on stage were leaked to the press.

The Happy Valley actor is currently starring in a stage adaption of American editor and novelist Hanya Yanagihara’s 2015 best seller A Little Life, at the Harold Pinter Theatre.

Audience members watching the acclaimed production are reportedly warned before it begins that photography is strictly prohibited.

But photographs of Norton, who appears nude in the play, were leaked to the MailOnline which published them on its website, sparking widespread outcry on social media.

The photos are understood to have been removed from the website following the backlash, and industry experts feel the incident could be a landmark moment for theatres.

Alistair Smith, 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.”

Dr Kirsty Sedgman, a cultural studies scholar based at the University of Bristol, told the Guardian the photos taken of Norton were an “absolute violation of the unwritten contract between audiences and performers”, agreeing it could lead to changes being made to prevent repeat incidents.

One Twitter user, named Caity, described the incident as “devastating”. “As if the entire play isn’t the most beautiful and emotional and intense thing to exist and that’s the thing [people] are choosing to focus on,” she wrote.

Others slammed the taking of the photographs as “disgusting” and “vile”.

A Little Life is running at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London’s West End for 12 weeks, until June 18.

It is directed by award-winning Belgian theatre director Ivo van Hove, whose acclaimed productions include A View from the Bridge, which went to the West End and Broadway, West Side Story and Network at the National Theatre.

The cast includes Bridgerton’s Luke Thompson, alongside Omari Douglas - who appeared in It’s a Sin-, The Witcher’s Zach Wyatt, The Crown’s Elliot Cowan and Tammy Faye’s Zubin Varla.

Norton stars in the highly emotive play as Jude St Francis, a highly intelligent disabled lawyer who has a spinal injury, experiences excruciating pain in his legs, self-harms and suffers from mental trauma which is the result of the sexual abuse he suffered when he was young.