Sunday, February 11, 2007

A Guide To Polite Theatre Going

I get relatively easily irritated by the foibles of other audience members' so figured it was time to draw up some Dos and Don'ts of watching a play. It actually depresses me slightly that I feel the need to list what should just be a matter of common sense and common decency.


  1. Arrive on time. To be fair theatres have a big responsibility here too. Only allow people in at a sensible breaks in performances and if someone has to leave mid act then don't let them back in.

  2. Don't drink too much. A lot of rude behaviour is caused by partaking of a few too many before the show, or during the interval. It just makes you look a prat.

  3. Don't eat sweets. You're only sitting there for an hour or so, you can survive for that long. The rustling really carries.

  4. Turn off your mobile. And I mean off, not vibrate. The same goes for beeping watches.

  5. Don't talk. When the lights go down that's your cue to shut up. Don't finish your conversation - it can wait till the interval.

  6. Make sure you're the appropriate audience for the performance. We've seen kids of 8 or 9 at shows that have clearly stated that the suggested age is 14+. We've also overheard other audience members, usually older ones, complaining about the strong language. This has usually either been specifically stated in the show info, or you could deduce it being likely from the subject matter.

  7. Be considerate to the people around you. Watch your elbows, and don't wear hats or have big hair. Watch your knees and feet. A slight shift in movement to you can feel like the percussion section are practicing on your kidneys to the person in front.

  8. Dress appropriately for the venue. I don't mean tux and evening dress here (but if that floats your boat, then go for it). I do mean think about what you're going to see. If it's not a conventional theatre style performance and you're going to be walking about following the actors don't wear 3" high stilettos (especially for across grass). Companies usually advise you that you'll need warm clothing, sensible shoes etc - pay attention to that advice.

  9. Keep the luggage to a minimum. We've seen people who've obviously just done the weekly shop before squeezing into their seat.

  10. In unallocated seating don't move seat at the interval. You're just going to cause chaos as there will be a ripple effect of people hunting for new seats.


5 Heckles

Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Just found your wonderfully written missive about theatre etiquette after following the link from Tracy Lett's blog. Here! Here!

I'm perplexed by the growing problem of rude behaviour. After my recent visit to London, I realized it is not isolated to American audiences. It is everywhere.

I may just need to provide your tips on proper etiquette to my own recent post -- please let me know if that's OK. It's exceptional!

Waldorf said...

It actually depressed me to have to write this post originally. And I don't know if I'm pleased I'm not alone...or to be even more dismayed that this is a global trend!

Tracy Letts' post illustrates beautifully how irritating this is from the performers viewpoint. I do agree with what you said in your post - they forget they aren't at home watching TV.

I've got to say that you've probably trumped the worst of our experiences with your cell phone user talking on speakerphone. Yes it can be an oversight to turn it off - but the appropriate response to a ringing mobile is to quickly silence it, and I don't mean by answering it!

I'd be happy to share these tips more widely - so feel free to add a link back.

david said...

Great post, and I agree with all of it. I am afraid it is older folk who tend to cause bother - they talk and eat sweets. I have been at quite a few plays recently where there were large school contingents - The Birthday Party at The Tron, was one. They behaved brilliantly.

I am also afraid I have to add another item to your list: please arrive clean and washed. I have given up going to cheap preview nights in one theatre that I will not name, because the Great Unwashed tend to be just that. There is just no excuse these days. We have moved on from the days of one bath a week ..... haven't we?

I am also bothered by the recent trend of bringing in drinks to the theatre. The Lyceum in Edinburgh is a case in point. Having someone next to you intermittently swigging G and T from a big plastic tumbler full of ice is quite frankly rude and very distracting. They will be selling popcorn next.

Waldorf said...

Stale BO in the theatre? Retch.

Luckily we've not had the pleasure of that one yet, however we've had the reverse experience. The 'taken a bath in perfume' theatregoer is equally unpleasant.

Completely agree with you about drinks too. We were at the Citizens recently (Ice Cream Dreams) and unusually for us we were in the dress circle rather than the stalls. I'm now nervous about returning to the stalls after seeing the idiots who though sitting their drinks on the rail was a good idea. They, of course, compounded their error by being card carrying members of the weak bladder club.

Fortunately nothing was spilled, but I was holding my breath for those below.

Anonymous said...

This code of conduct assures you that the future of theatre will be a polite one, one with manners.

And totally boring.

Shakespeare made theatre with the groundlings who had no code of conduct.

This code assures you fewer audience members who seek entertainment. This would not fly in a concert or a sporting event where people exercise their emotions in a way I only WISH they could at the theatre.