THE crystal-clear acoustics of Victoria Theatre were sorely tested during a modern dance performance on Monday night - by a noisy group of schoolgirls.
The 300 Secondary 2 students from CHIJ Katong Convent were out on an arts excursion to see the A-Soon Dance Company, a Korean act which is part of the ongoing Singapore Arts Festival.
Before the show began, the girls started talking noisily in the Circle section upstairs, although everyone else was quiet.
Later, they shushed each other loudly in a succession of loud giggles and a chorus of shhhs that continued through the first half of the evening, which lasted 40 minutes.
The girls apparently found the translucent, butt-revealing leotards of the dancers funny, as they giggled at each jiggling butt cheek, almost on cue.
Their antics were audible across both floors of the half-full theatre.
The noise they made prompted an angry member of the audience, dance student Lee Mun Wai, 22, to get up during the interval.
Using four-letter expletives, he told them to 'stop making that noise'.
He added: 'Do you know how irritating you are? I don't care what school you're from but I'm from Lasalle-SIA College and I will never let you in!'
His words, which stunned the theatre into silence, were then met with audience applause.
Music promoter Sangeetha Madhavan, 29, who was in the audience, said she was 'relieved that someone had put a stop to the noise, although it should have been a teacher'.
She added: 'It could have been done without the swearing.
'But I'm just happy the rest of the performance was undisturbed.'
Speaking to Life! later, Mr Lee admitted that he had lost his cool and could have used more diplomatic words.
But he was more embarrassed for the Korean guests who had 'flown all the way here to be greeted with such a misbehaving crowd. It's like a slap in the face to them'.
He added: 'I'm a member of the paying audience and I'm here for a good show. I'm glad that I stood up to scold the ill-disciplined girls because I know they will never do this again.'
The dancers, meanwhile, appeared unaffected by the extra attention.
They gave a thrilling show in the second half, held in a by-then quiet theatre.
The first half had dealt with the spiritual theme of human transendence, while the second half was a philosophical query into the future of Korean dance.
At the Circle during the interval, a teacher escorting the girls gave them a dressing-down after Mr Lee's outburst.
Apparently, the disturbance had not been caused by the entire party of 300, who had paid $10 each for subsidised tickets to the show, but by a small group of culprits in the front row.
The teacher did not wish to be named, but apologised for their misconduct.
She also said that the girls' giggling was not loud from where she was sitting.
'The girls have not been exposed to modern dance, and could not understand all of it,' she said.
'But I was very frightened that they were exposed to such vulgarity,' she added, referring to Mr Lee's outburst.
When Katong Convent was contacted by Life! yesterday, it said it was investigating the matter and 'will be putting measures to prevent this from happening again'.
It could not comment further.
One of the girls, who said she had not been giggling, said she was shocked by Mr Lee's yelling.
She added that she was approached five minutes after that by another member of the audience who did not hesitate to scold her.
She said, bursting into tears: 'He called me an a**hole to my face. I've never been called an a**hole to my face before.'
Members of the National Arts Council worked to contain the hubbub during the interval and were seen talking to the escorting teacher.
Some NAC staff wondered why there should have been such misbehaviour as many previous school excursions to arts events had worked out peacefully.
The NAC currently issues advisories on the switching off of handphones before concerts, and on R(18) theatre ratings.
Others in the theatre were, simply, amused.
Piano teacher Rochelle Tan, 29, said: 'Perhaps the children weren't briefed properly - it's not entirely their fault.
'After all, at that age, girls will always want to chat to each other. I hope the incident won't deter teachers from bringing students to more arts events.'
The NAC said it was grateful that CHIJ Katong Convent supported the festival programme. The school had bought 300 tickets in bulk for the show.
But it also said: 'As we expose young audiences to the arts and bring them on excursions for a first-hand experience in theatres, we also need to educate them on good audience behaviour.
'We plan to work with schools to further develop our Arts Education Programme, to reinstate audience etiquette.'