Premature evacuation

Messiah by English National Opera at the London Coliseum

Eddie Izzard didn't look happy, and I wasn't surprised. He'd been riffing his comedic heart out for the past two hours, he'd finished with a flourish, he'd obeyed the calls for an encore. And when he stepped back out on to the stage, what did he find? An audience on its feet, yes; but on its feet because it was shrugging on its coats and filing down the aisles, not ovating the jazz chicken skit. I struggled to watch his finale over the heads of the leavers, mildly surprised by their lack of gratitude and grace. Only mildly, mind. Standup has always been a casual affair, and comedians used to bottle-throwing and heckling are unlikely to be miffed by a few punters ignoring the curtain call. More specifically, theO2 can be hell to escape after a show, and you can hardly blame tired Monday-night commuters for trying to beat the rush.

But it happened again the next night, this time in the rarefied atmosphere of the Coliseum after a beautiful three-hour performance ofENO's Messiah. Now I was surprised. By the time the conductor came on to thank the orchestra, he faced a sea of cashmere-clad backs heading for St Martin's Lane.