When I took my last theatre trip earlier in the month, there were a few things that I noticed that I didn’t like about attending a show. And by that, I mean things that other people were doing. There are a number of bad theatre habits that a minority of audience members have picked up in recent years and I think it’s time to discuss my theatre pet-peeves.
We’re in a world of social media and constant contact with other people. But by paying upwards of £20 (and quite often closer to the £50 and over mark), you’d think people could put their phones away for a couple of hours. But that’s not always the case. Nope, phones are out for far too long! Now I’m guilty of spending time on my phone until the last moment, mainly because I’m trying to finish off some blog drafts or reply to tweets, but as soon as the house lights go down, my phone goes away. But it’s becoming more an more commonplace for audience members to leave their phone out, on full brightness, until someone steps on the stage. And the same occurs at the end of the interval. Yes, even when the overture or entr’acte begin and the conductor is in full view.
And this leads me nicely to my next pet peeve: people talking over the overture and entr’acte (the instrumental introduction to the first act, and the instrumental before beginning of the second act). Just because there is nobody on stage, the show has started. The orchestra are still part of the performance and deserve the audience’s respect. I find that this happens a lot more often in a commercial musicals, and it was particularly noticeable during 42nd Street. It’s rude; you can be quiet for the 60 seconds before the production begins!
So we know that talking over instrumentals is a real bug bear of mine, but talking in general is just a no-no. You may think that the people around can’t hear you, but they sure can! There’s nothing that can’t wait until the interval or the end of the production. Even if you can whisper below an audible level, you’ll have to move in to speak to your buddy which is almost as annoying. Theatres, especially the older London theatres, don’t give every audience member a fantastic view. I couldn’t afford to go to the theatre as often as I do if I didn’t buy the cheap seats and whilst I research my seats, they often end up as restricted view. Not from a pillar, but from the people in front of me moving to speak to their pal. Seats are in a such a formation that you can see most of the stage by sitting up in your seat…until someone moves across your eyeline. JUST STOP. I honestly think this might be my biggest theatre hate of them all of recent months, but everything I’ve mentioned in this post winds me up something chronic.
A pet hate that may be a little controversial is the screaming, hollering and cheering during performances. Whilst I advocate celebrating every performance, there’s a line that has somehow been erased in recent years. I read an article on The Stage recently that talked about this and that the idea of a standing ovation has changed (I highly recommend giving this article a read to read very similar thoughts to mine). Every show gets one now, which could negate the achievements of a stellar show. But my issue doesn’t lie here; mine lies with the cheering mid-performance. Whilst I did expect it a little during closing night at Half A Sixpence as family and friends would’ve been in, celebrating their loved ones. The only time I’ve felt the desire to give some a standing-O mid-show was during Dreamgirls. Amber Riley’s performance of And I Am Telling You caused me to shed tears, goosebumps to form and chills down my spine. But that is strategically at the end of the first act so it just works. But by screaming like a schoolgirl mid-performance, you’re not only giving me a headache, but each meticulously timed break in a show is pushed back. This then causes me to leave the theatre a little later than I planned and I have to run for my 23:22 train home from London, which I shouldn’t have to do. But I’ll never leave early…
And my final big pet hate that audience members seem intent on participating in is arriving late and leaving early. I know that sometimes public transport can be a little unreliable, or your dinner might overrun, but it’s just a pain for other audience members and it’s super distracting to the actors on stage. I know that ushers often wait until there’s an appropriate break in the performance but it doesn’t make the entrance in darkness any less irritating. Plus you could miss some brilliant acting like The Play That Goes Wrong gives you before the scheduled curtain up time.
And then there’s leaving a performance early. I think that’s even worse! Sure, walking out and not returning at the interval is one thing but life’s short and you can’t spend a couple of hours wasting your time on tosh (I’ve personally never left early and don’t know if I’m ballsy enough to do it, but I’ve heard of other people who have). But leaving during the final number, you’re inferring that the work that performers have put in isn’t worth praise, a round of applause and recognition for what they’ve done. You’ve spent two hours giving them your full attention – hopefully – so what’s 5 more minutes? And if you leave this post early before giving me a comment I won’t be happy (ha, just kidding).
Okay, maybe I’m a bit of a theatre snob but I know what it’s like on the stage and there are so many things that are off-putting as a performer. And there are a lot of things that are distracting to other audience members. Most people don’t spend a small fortune on tickets to have the people behind them chatting away, or the people a few seats ahead to be texting. And most people aren’t the problem, but the select few ruin the experience for me. And what’s worst, is that it’s the people who have spent a small fortune on the best seats in the house!
The actors don’t need your distractions. They want your attention! If you can’t wait until the interval to check your phone, then maybe you shouldn’t be at the theatre. And the same goes for many of the other points I’ve made. Okay, maybe I’m turning into one of West End Producer‘s theatre prefects, but it’s just two or three hours of your life; enjoy your time as an audience member!