This is going to be my equivalent of a public service broadcast, I’m afraid. Or possibly a health warning for people who don’t heed my suggestions!
The bad habits that people seem to have got into in theatres are really starting to get on my nerves. I’ve had isolated moans about this sort of thing before (and Caroline Hanks-Farmer recently wrote a great piece on the same idea), but what’s really prompted me to write this can be found in point 1…
(1) Mobile phones
Just turn the bastard things off already!
I was at the final original cast performance of Shakespeare in Love last night, sat in ‘my’ seat (perched round the side of the grand circle, leaning over the edge) and thoroughly enjoying myself, when someone lucky enough to be sat a few rows back in the stalls decided to get their phone out. I could feel my anger starting to rise, but they actually put it away quite quickly, thankfully. And then they got it out again, and again, and again… Throughout the first two-thirds of act 1 – probably around ten times. So I sent this tweet during the interval, in the hope that they would see it and repent:
But no. In fact, it got even worse! They barely put the phone away in the second half. In the end I had to position my hands so I couldn’t see the blue glare the whole time… It came so close to ruining my night!
And it doesn’t just annoy other patrons – the actors are actually in the room with you, so they can see it too! Especially if you’re stupid and ignorant enough to use your phone when you’re sat right at the front:
And don’t get me started on phones actually going off… Particularly during my favourite show (need you ask?). Sometimes it feels like people are actively conspiring against me, as their phone beeps or rings during quiet and/or emotional moments… Maybe it’s time for theatres to re-think their approach to getting audiences to turn off their phones? I’ve been reliably informed by a theatre friend that The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time has a good method: just before the show starts they play lots of different ringtones and make a comment about turning your phone off. I don’t think there will ever be a day when everyone switches their phone off before a show begins, but the more that can be encouraged the better.
Surely if you pay the astronomical prices that some shows charge, you should want to make the most of it?
Now, I can tolerate the odd cough here and there; it’s a natural action, after all. However. It is possible to hold in coughs – by having boiled sweets (though get rid of the noisy wrappers), drinking, or even just by concentrating fully on what’s going on in front of you. Seriously, try it! I’ve had a terrible cough over the past few weeks, but maintained my punishing theatre schedule – and managed to not disruptively cough once! (That probably sounds a bit showy-offy, doesn’t it?)
Again, just try thinking of everyone else’s experience. Also, coughing too much is actually quite damaging to your body – so it makes sense to keep it to a minimum anyway!
This should go without saying (unintentional pun alert).
When the actors are talking (or singing, etc.), it’s time for you to shut up! Discuss it with your friends during the interval or after the show…
Unless someone announces anything to the contrary, you are not allowed to take pictures during shows. (Technically you’re not generally allowed to take photos once you get into the auditorium, but I personally think theatres are too precious about this.)
Obviously there are copyright concerns at the heart of these decisions, but it is again very off-putting for both -patrons and actors alike. From a shutter noise, to a flash – or the blue glare of a digital camera screen. It’s all super-annoying. I had to tell a man off during a recent Sunny Afternoon trip as it was really hacking me off… He seemed to think it was fine, as he wasn’t filming it! Luckily he was reasonable about it and stopped.
If you insist on munching you way through a show, please do your wrapper rustling and noisy chewing during louder moments. Not quiet sections! Again, it’s annoying for people trying to listen – and must really rile the actors.
It does feel like some people wait until the end of a song in a musical before diving into their bags of chocolate… How does this make any sense? During a louder song is the most acceptable time to be getting out food – still quite annoying, but more understandable. Or just wait until the interval!
To summarise: put yourself in other patrons’ shoes and think what you’d be willing to put up with. And do the right thing!