Last weekend I went up to London to watch jazz funk band the Brand New Heavies perform alongside the London Concert Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall.

So far, so genteel. But my enjoyment of the set was interrupted by the sound of the couple behind us chatting away at full volume about anything and everything.

When we asked them to be quiet, we were met with a volley of abuse: to summarise for a family newspaper, the gist of their response was that they’d paid for their seats and if they wanted to talk, that was what they were going to do.

This isn’t the first time such an incident has happened to me in recent months.

Back in November, I went to see Eddie Izzard only to be distracted from her comedy routine by the bright light of someone’s mobile two rows in front.

Then in December, I went to watch the pantomime at Salisbury Playhouse: the family behind us – more specifically, the parents not the children – talked throughout the performance.

If you go and watch music, theatre or comedy, you may well have had similar experiences over the past couple of years.

Since lockdown, theatre etiquette has become something of a cultural battleground.

Last April, a performance of the musical The Bodyguard was stopped when audience members refused to stop singing loudly along.

In a podcast last month, the actor Andrew Scott described stopping his ‘To be or not to be’ soliloquy in Hamlet because an audience member opened his laptop to start checking his emails.

Quite why this has happened is unclear: it would be quite easy to go all grumpy old man and blame younger generations and attention span, but in my straw poll of personal experiences none of those involved were younger than me.

Is it because lockdown got us out of the habit of going out to watch performances, and we’ve transferred all the chatting and checking the phone of the sitting room sofa to the stalls?

Silence hasn’t always been the norm when going out to the theatre.

Back in Shakespeare’s today, audiences would be every bit as rowdy and chatty as the people I’ve recently asked to be quiet.

Sitting quietly as a thing seemed to start in the 19th century: according to theatre etiquette expert Kirsty Sedgman, this came through ‘a series of coordinated campaigns led by cultural elites who decided to ‘civilise’ the masses’, reimagining arts venues as ‘spaces for disciplined contemplation’.

Two hundred years later, this process feels as though it is fraying and shifting again.

Whether that is a breakdown in behaviour or a reversion to how people appreciate the arts depends on your point of view.