I go to the theatre quite a lot, and so, I’m pretty familiar with certain rules in the theatre. Other theatregoers, however, aren’t always as familiar with these rules as I am. Which, to be blunt, is rather annoying to other theatregoers, the actors, the director and the theatre staff, and so, in the spirit of Christmas, a bit of fun, and my own sanity, here are my seven tips for every theatregoer.
Be On Time
Shows start at a certain time, and this time is on your ticket. If you arrive at the theatre late, then there is a chance that you might not be allowed into the auditorium as your late arrival could disrupt the performance. Most theatres have a latecomers policy – you can find this on your ticket – so make sure you’re familiar with that venue’s particular policy.
If you are running late, it’s an idea to phone ahead and see if the theatre will let you in later, or perhaps even if they could stall the show’s starting time by a few minutes for you – this is rare, but it does happen.
However, if you are late, and the theatre staff let you in after the show starts, and you have to ask people to stand up so you can get to your seat, then be polite and extremely apologetic. Believe me, other theatregoers don’t appreciate latecomers any more than the actors/director/venue staff do.
Find Your Seat
Now, I know the quality of seating somewhat varied between theatres, and sometimes it isn’t entirely clear where your seat is, but this is why theatres have signs and ushers; to show you where you should be sitting. If you’re ever unsure, ask. Don’t just sit down on the first seat you find; sitting in someone else’s seat is a sure-fire way to make you very unpopular very quickly. Find your seat and then sit in it.
Theatres can be very cramped places, which is funny, considering that they are designed for people to flock to and enjoy. Don’t get me wrong, they are very sociable places, but you need to be considerate of others’ personal space at all times. So, if someone needs to squeeze past you to get to their seat, stand up so that they can get to their seat quickly.
The auditorium isn’t your living room, so if you have your belongings strewn all over the floor, pick them up so the person squeezing past you doesn’t have to make their journey any more precarious. It’s only polite and have you ever had to struggle to climb over somebody else’s bags while trying to make your way to your seat? It’s difficult, isn’t it? It’s also not very graceful, and takes more time to do. So don’t sit there, and shift your legs slightly to one side, that’s lazy and unhelpful – stand up, smile and get out of their way.
Similarly, if you are the person trying to squeeze past, say phrases like: “Excuse me, please.” when you need someone to move so you can get to your seat and “Thank you very much, that’s very good of you.” when someone moves for you – you’d be amazed how many people forget these basic and very necessary utterances. Be polite and appreciative in both the auditorium and the bar, which can get very busy during the interval, so don’t forget your manners, please.
Switch off your phone
By ‘switch off your phone’, I mean don’t just put it on silent; switch it off, put it back in your bag, or your pocket and don’t look at it for the entirety of the performance, you can do this, it is possible. Also, switch it off when you arrive at the venue, not when you’re told to by staff, or just before the curtain goes up.
Theatre is about escape, it’s where you can lose yourself in another world, it’s a place where your phone and your social life are not important. Don’t even think about checking your phone for messages during the show, a silent phone still lights up when used, and that light is not only instantly noticeable but also really very bright and annoying, so leave it in your bag.
That thing on your face – your mouth – close it. Stop making noises, stop talking to your best mate or whoever you’re at the theatre with about that dress an actor is wearing, or how funny that joke was. Silently close your mouth, and let not a sound come out of it unless you need to cough, sneeze or if something utterly amazing or distressing happens on stage.
The same applied to bringing in food – only do this if you have to. Trust me, if it’s not the noise of you trying to rip open a packet of Maltesers with all the grace and artistry of a starving elephant attempting to open a Kilner jar full of peanuts, it’s the unimaginable noise that a single Werther’s Original makes when it’s being slowly unwrapped. Unwrapping it slowly doesn’t make it any quieter. So, if you must bring in food, (and I don’t think you need to) then please have it to hand and opened before the curtain goes up.
Is there any reason for you to be fidgeting? No? Then sit still. It seems like some people can’t watch a film or a show without fiddling with something on their person, such as a work pass, a necklace, their hair, or a really pretty, but far too noisy bracelet.
What some people forget, is that when they go to the theatre or even the cinema, is that fidgeting isn’t necessary in public. I once saw a woman take off one of her sandals and then proceed pick at the dry skin on her feet during an Edinburgh Fringe show; she did it for so long that a little pile of dead skin formed on the floor, which being a Fringe venue, also happened to be the stage. She had no idea she was doing it, it just seemed to be a bit of a habit for her, regardless of where she was.
So stop playing with stuff, chewing your nails, stroking your hair, picking at your feet and mucking about with your keys/lanyard/loud jewellery and be still, it’s very distracting.
If you’re not enjoying the show, grab your stuff, stand up and leave the theatre quietly. There are other people there who would like to keep watching the show, so by all means, leave, no one is stopping you. Don’t sit there moaning about the show, or trying to distract yourself with your phone, shut up, stand up and get out of the theatre.