Tag Archives: Theatre Etiquette

The Fallacy of Banning Children From Museums and Theatres

2 Apr
Government shutdown image courtesy of Reddit

Government shutdown image courtesy of Reddit

It’s as we’ve feared; Other People’s Children are just terrible. Look at them, misbehaving in museums and being disruptive in theatres instead of silently appreciating the best of the UK’s culture like us uptight adults. We are in danger of being wiped out by a cuddly wave of prepubescent anarchy, there’s agony in the aisles, there’s cursing in the cinema and there’s panic in the stalls! Clearly, the only solution is to send them to theatre etiquette lessons! Let’s put age restrictions on all the museums and galleries! Then we’ll send them to bed without any dinner! That’ll teach the little uncultured sods.

Before the powers that be actually do decide to BAN ALL CHILDREN FROM EVERYTHING we need to lead by example and start by dealing with the adults that continually disrupt performances, screenings, exhibitions and annoy fellow patrons with shoddy, selfish behaviour, because the arts should be for all; not for just for a select and privileged few.

If children are merely small people with no sense of decorum, then surely adults are merely overstretched toddlers that can’t plead ignorance for their actions. They not only should know better, they do know better, yet, some of them continue to flout the rules. So then, if the problem also applies to adults, then why aren’t we calling for them to be given etiquette lessons, or muting rules that would see them banned from all cultural institutions? Because they have something that children don’t: money.

More cash means more spending, which means more investment and more profit, so museums, theatres, cinemas and other cultural attractions can stay open and accessible to all.

The thing about kids is that they are in actual fact, the world’s best critics. They’re brutally honest, easily bored and they’re not afraid of telling you so. We’ve all sat near an excitable child in a theatre or a cinema who excitedly chattered along to what they were watching, acting as an unofficial narrator to the piece, usually to their parents’ utter embarrassment and whispered pleas of “Will you be quiet?!”

This is what children do. They test boundaries so they want to know what they can get away with. If they discover that they can get away with doing something, then they’ll continue doing it until someone puts them right. Children don’t know that it’s not proper to climb a piece of modern art worth millions. They see something that looks like it can be climbed, and unless someone stops them they will attempt to climb it. The parent or guardian’s role is to teach their child about boundaries and how to behave properly in public, because funnily enough, kids aren’t born with any idea of boundaries or ‘proper behaviour’. This isn’t an easy task, but that’s because parenthood is hard.

No matter what happens, children will always be awful to someone, somewhere in some way. But banning children outright from all theatres, cinemas, museums, galleries and the like goes against every reason they were created. These cultural institutions should be accessible and open to all, not just to the elite.

The arts are the legacy that we can leave the next generation of enquiring minds and passionate creators. That includes the youngest people in our society and also the overstretched toddlers that act like them.

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Seven Tips for the Theatregoer Or Sit Down, Shut Up and Quit Moving

9 Dec

Theatre Audience

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.

Be Considerate

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.

Be silent

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.

Be still

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.

Get Out

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.

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