An actor in a village amateur dramatic society was left with a fractured eye socket when he was punched during a back-stage bust-up by a member of the audience in a row about heckling at a Christmas show.
Howard Osborne, 66, is said to have ‘lost it’ and repeatedly punched amateur actor Christopher Price in the dressing room moments after the show had ended, leaving ‘blood everywhere’.
The bust-up erupted after a production of Alan Ayckbourn’s dark comedy Season’s Greetings at Saxlingham Nethergate village hall, Norfolk, a court heard.
Victim Dr Price, a retired GP, has since said he is unsure if he will be able to return to act at the venue again, saying the ‘sanctuary of the dressing room’ has been ‘violated’.
Meanwhile the Osborne’s defence solicitor told today magistrates his client’s heckling was part of the show.
Amateur actor Christopher Price (pictured left at an earlier performance) was punched in his dressing room by an audience member who heckled him during a Christmas show
The bust-up erupted after a production of Alan Ayckbourn’s dark comedy Season’s Greetings by amateur dramatics group the Saxlingham Players (pictured)
The production was held at Saxlingham Nethergate village hall (pictured), Norfolk, in December for the Christmas production when the assault took place, a court heard
Norwich magistrates heard how Mr Price initially objected to heckling by Osborne and told him he was not welcome at the after-show party.
A short time later, Osborne confronted the grey-haired actor and told him: ‘You’ve got five seconds to apologise to me or I’ll punch you through that wall’.
Osborne, of Saxlingham Thorpe, was then said to have thrown ‘five or six’ punches, knocking his shocked victim to the floor.
He was arrested after police were called to the village hall.
Osborne admitted assault causing actual bodily harm and was fined £750 and ordered to pay £750 compensation to Mr Price as well as £180 in court costs.
The assault happened on December 7 last year on the last night of the three night run of the play performed by the Saxlingham Players.
The black comedy written in 1980 by Ayckbourn tells of a dysfunctional family and their friends in a suburban house over four days of Christmas.
Howard Osborne, a retired accountant, was heckling Mr Price on stage during the show (left) when the row broke out. Mr price said something back and the pair fought in the dressing room. Pictured right: The stage set up for the show at Saxlingham Nethergate village hall
The assault happened on December 7 last year on the last night of the three night run of the play performed by the Saxlingham Players (pictured at an earlier performance). The black comedy written in 1980 by Ayckbourn tells of a dysfunctional family and their friends in a suburban house over four days of Christmas.
The Saxlingham Players programme said the plot involved an ‘undercurrent of petty trials and tribulations’ from Christmas Eve until the day after Boxing Day.
It added: ‘As with any family at this time of year the veneer of ‘peace and goodwill to all mankind’ wears thin.’
Mr Price was playing the character of Bernard, a feeble-spirited doctor who is anti-violence and obsessed with putting on a dismal puppet show for the children.
A flyer for the Season’s Greetings performance by the Saxlingham Players
Robyn Khan, prosecuting told the court, said: ‘The victim told police that he’d had a verbal discussion with the defendant after he was heckling his performance.
‘A short while later the defendant came into his dressing room and said, ‘You’ve got five seconds to apologise to me or I’ll punch you through that wall’.
‘He then launched himself at the victim who then fell into a chair due to a blow received from the defendant.’
A witness to the attack, Jonathan Jackson, said in a statement that both men landed up on the floor and he saw Osborne ‘throwing five or six punches’.
Another witness, Clifford Lee-Smith, a member of the show’s cast, said Mr Price was getting hit to his face and head, and could not defend himself.
Ms Khan added: ‘He said the defendant had completely lost it and that there was blood everywhere.’
Mr Price who has appeared in previous productions for the Saxlingham Players, told of his trauma in a victim impact statement read out to the court.
He said: ‘I have only been back to Saxlingham Nethergate Village Hall once since.
I don’t feel safe. The actor’s dressing room is a sanctuary but that was violated. I don’t know if I’ll ever go on stage there again.’
Simon Nicholls, defending Osborne, said heckling had been part of the performance.
He added: ‘The complainant was playing a role. Several people were laughing and jeering at his character. It wasn’t an attack on his acting.’
The home of Howard Osborne near Saxlingham Nethergate, Norfolk. Mr Osborne has been convicted of assaulting actor Dr Christopher Price
Mr Nicholls said Osborne and his wife were long-time supporters of the amateur dramatics company.
He claimed that he had been confronted by Mr Price and his sons and told he should not attend an after-show party.
Mr Nicholls added: ‘He accepts unequivocally that he lost his temper and that what started off as a tussle between the two of them developed into something that cannot be argued was self-defence.’
Presiding magistrate Jane Dyke told Osborne: ‘There was we believe significant provocation not only by the complainant but also by the two sons and that was perhaps the trigger point for the unfortunate assault causing actual bodily harm that followed.’
The Saxlingham Players were formed 60-years-ago and usually put on at least two productions every