Theatre etiquette – what does that actually mean – in this instance, it’s about the behaviour and consideration of the audience, we all have some bugbears the usual ones being the rattling of sweetie bags or talking during a production, Mobile phones bleeping and so on.
My tolerance for such behaviour is very small especially as in the past few weeks I have witnessed so many acts of sheer rudeness towards the performers and other audience members.
For example, whilst sitting watching a production recently the couple in front of us insisted on talking the whole way through making it so difficult to concentrate on the play itself as they kept meeting their heads together to discuss their thoughts meaning we were constantly having to move also to see the action and therefore it would have had a domino effect on those sitting behind us too.
At another theatre, a lady insisted on checking her mobile throughout the show and sending texts. Every time she opened the phone or received a text back it lit up causing a distraction – If she didn’t want to be there or she had an urgent issue she could have left the auditorium and dealt with it in the foyer or bar – why spoil others enjoyment.
I still regularly see people taking photos or recording videos with their mobile phone in the theatre and often quite blatantly, but the theatres/groups producing rarely act and I have no idea why?
However, for the first time recently I sat next to a man with a large digital camera and long-range lens who happily was snapping away at children on the stage. Not only was the constant clicking of the aperture and button very annoying, but he obviously had no thought that this was wrong. In his defence if was one of the only times I haven’t heard a pre-show announcement reminding people to switch phones etc off and that no recording equipment can be used prior to a production but personally, I would add to these announcements or signs that anyone found using their phone or any other equipment during the show will have them confiscated and/or be removed from the theatre.
Don’t get me wrong I am hugely in favour of relaxed performances where talking and moving around the auditorium is allowed and of other special performances too. I understand that children can fidget or get scared etc and that is perfectly acceptable as they are children and do sometimes need to get out to go to the toilet.
I have often sat in productions where you get the odd shout out or noise from a member of a charity or group in the audience and that is not a problem to me either. This is about the obvious disregard for someone who is trying to perform on the stage and causing a distraction for those sitting around trying to watch them.
I always switch off my phone during a production and try not to talk other than in scene changes etc. Trying to review a production where I am struggling to see or hear it because of those around me is frustrating as I want to do the best I can for the production and cast plus you often miss out on some great one-liners and excellent portrayals.
So can you live without your phone or watch messaging you and updating you all the time – just switch it off for that one hour window – check it in the interval and then switch it off until the end it’s not difficult it’s just about being polite and considerate to others.