Friday, 30 January 2015

Theatre Etiquette

I go to the theatre A LOT. It's become an almost weekly occurrence and one that I love. But there is one small (yet growing) problem which is starting to annoy me more and more - the rest of the audience. I have no idea why (as being able to sit still is something that I personally haven't had trouble with since I was about 6) but in almost every single show I have visited recently, I have been disturbed by one of my fellow theatre-goers. And that is a shame because we are meant to enjoy this special little world together, not get annoyed with each other.

Therefore, being the kind person I am, I have compiled a list of a few basic rules to apply when you are at the theatre. Stick to these and you won't go wrong.

Be on time
If I can do it, then you certainly can. I am the most disorganised, scatty, late-running person imaginable. I never turn up on time to anything. Except the theatre. Because, one, I don't want to miss any of it. And two, because it's not cool to punish those who have actually managed to turn up at the correct hour. Imagine how many people are jolted out of the little world they are trying to place themselves in because you have had to poke your bum in their face and squeeze past them.

I do admit - I was late just once to a show: The X Factor Musical (a review of which you can find here if you are interested But that was through a genuine mistake as I thought it began at 2.30 like every other matinee performance in the West End (it was actually 2.15). Luckily though, I didn't miss too much as it wasn't the best musical in London. However, if you are late to say, The Lion King, you will miss one of the best dance sequences I have ever seen.

Turn Mobile Phones OFF
Seriously just put them away for a couple of hours - it won't kill you. And putting them on silent is not enough either, because vibrating is almost as distracting as a ringtone.

As mobile phones take over our lives more and more, it is becoming more and more common for people to 'forget' to turn them off. And it is just tempting fate. A few months ago, I was watching a show, quite close to the front in the stalls of the theatre. Someone's phone went off a few rows behind me, in a magically still moment, filled with emotion. You know the ones...where the whole theatre seems to be holding it's breath. Well we were brought straight back down to reality with a stirring rendition of Default Tone. And it took a good minute for the stupid woman to turn the stupid thing off. The whole theatre heard. As did the actors. Well done, you idiot. Way to kill an atmosphere.

Don't eat sweets
Unfortunately it's not against theatre law to eat in the theatre. It should be. Because somehow people never open that packet in the interval or prior to the show starting. They always decide half way through a song that they are suddenly starving hungry and spend the next few minutes, searching through their bag and then rustling the packet. Don't. Can't you tell what a racket you are making?? Wait until the interval. Or think up a food that doesn't come in a packet. And doesn't crunch. And doesn't smell. You might be safe with a mint that you have pre-prepared by taking it out of the packet beforehand.

Keep Kids Under Control
The majority of shows are far too adult for children so if you are going to see Miss Saigon, Billy Elliot, Made in Dagenham or one like that you are reasonably safe. However, if you go to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Wicked or most assuredly, Matilda you will probably come up against a few little ones.

To be honest, I don't think kids have much of a place in theatre...not until their attention spans have matured anyway. I unfortunately was sitting behind a little girl (probably around 6) at Matilda who had come with her grandparents. And I spent the whole of the first half, trying to see around her as she knelt up on her seat and bobbed around and laid her head on her grandmother's shoulder and whispered something to her grandmother....Big grrrrr. Luckily they didn't return after the interval.

Don't move your head around
Please understand that you are not the only one in this theatre. And very few areas of the theatre are tiered. So if you move your head it is going to start a chain reaction of all the rows behind you doing the same. Which is fine once or twice - obviously we don't want you to crick your neck or anything - but every 30 seconds is not cool. Stop it.

Don't tap or kick the seats in front of you
I get that some people are just really really into the music. And they probably don't even realise they are doing it. But stop it. It's annoying. And keep your shoes on. Anyone who takes their shoes off, or worse, puts their feet up on the seats, should be shot. Feet are gross. Put them out of the way, where I can't see them or hear them.

Don't put coats over the back of the seats
Especially not the seat in front of you. That's not your seat. You did not pay for that seat. It belongs to someone else and they may not be comfortable with a zip sticking into their backs.

Stand up/move out of the way when people are trying to get past
Don't just sit there. It's awkward for me as I have to invade your personal space. It's awkward for you who have their personal space invaded. And it's awkward for the people in front of you who get my bum brushing their hair. All in all it's very awkward.

I had this happen to me at the production of Matilda I went to see a few weeks ago. The lady, who was on the slightly plumper side to put it nicely, refused to move despite the fact she was only three seats in from the end (and it was her kids who were occupying the other two seats). Nor did she bother to stand up, not that it would have helped that much (oops, I have stopped being nice). I had to literally step over her knees. Luckily I have got long legs.

Don't sing along with the songs 
This is not a gig. I repeat this is not a gig. It is therefore, not suitable to either enter roaring drunk or, even worse, to roar out the songs. I have paid a lot of money to hear the professionals do it. I would actually like to hear them.

Don't talk
All I have to say to you chatterers is... SERIOUSLY? Save your reviews until after the show. I am really not interested if 'a particular note was a touch flat'. What I am interested in is the subsequent dialogue I am now missing.

There are many many more little tips that I could easily have written here but I thought I would just stick to the key ones. 

All you really need to remember is to be considerate of those around you. You are not at a gig, and you are not at home. So make sure that you remember that you are not the only ones present and that people will probably be disturbed by if you make a racket and a rumpus. Including the actors. So just sit back, relax and enjoy the show. And let everyone else do the same.

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  1. Totally agree, especially the bit about kids. So many shows and productions have been ruined for me by children who don't know how to behave and whose parents don't have the sense to keep them quiet and still. My daughter started going to the theatre, ballet, etc with me from the early age of 3 and knew exactly to behave. Not once did she ever speak, move inappropriately or do anything to disturb those around us and, I have to admit, I was always very proud to take her to any theatre.

  2. I've never understood why people want to go to the theatre and just drink so much that they are too pissed to enjoy the show! I saw Thriller a few years back and the couple in front of us were so gobby and drunk and were singing along to all the songs at top volume...we had to complain in the end!
    Have spent the last couple of hours reading your blog and loved all your theatre reviews, I've followed you on bloglovin so I don't miss any of your posts :)