Theatre Etiquette

I was recently lucky enough to go and see Guys and Dolls at the Phoenix Theatre in London. It was a great show, and whilst not as spectacular as some of the shows I have seen, it still comes highly recommended and was a lot funnier than I had anticipated. However, one thing I noticed (that certainly wasn’t the fault of the theatre) was that some people have no idea about theatre etiquette.

I don’t know why some people feel the need to spoil the theatre experience for everyone else. Or how some people can be so oblivious to the effect that their actions have on the wider audience. I don’t know if I am just becoming more irritable, or if people are becoming more self-centred, but I have to say that it is not OK. Here are some of my pet hates that can so easily be avoided:

  1. People who arrive late. I know some people may have very good reasons for this, but in my opinion you should always aim to be there when the doors open. That way you still have some time if things don’t go to plan. And whilst the theatre stewards will prevent people from getting to their seats until there is an appropriate moment, if you have a seat in the middle of the row there is never an appropriate moment as you will always be disturbing someone else.
  2. People who have their phones on during the performance. I’ll admit, people are pretty good about turning their phones to silent. I don’t think I’ve been to a show which has been interrupted by someone’s phone ringing, which I’m grateful for, but in a dark theatre people’s phone screens being on can be just as irritating and distracting. I don’t care if you are checking Facebook, or feel the need to Instagram your programme so that you can share with everyone where you are, it can wait. Do it before the show starts, wait till the interval or till the entire thing is over, don’t do it whilst the performance is ongoing.
  3. People who go to the toilet in the middle of the show. We have all had a call of nature at an inappropriate moment, but at least hold it in until the song is done. And when you come back, wait for an appropriate moment to return to your seat – the middle of a climactic scene or a showy number is not the best time. And if you know you are going to have to go to the toilet a lot, book a seat at the end of a row. They always get left till last anyway.
  4. People who grumble about standing ovations. Yes, I agree, if someone stands up in front of you in the middle of the show it is extremely annoying (see above). But a standing ovation will come at the end of a performance and is theatre speak for saying “you’ve done an incredible job”. You may not agree, and may not want to join in but nobody is forcing you and there is no need to grumble about it.
  5. People who leave their ice cream cartons behind at the end. If you’ve had a treat in the interval, don’t leave it behind at the end. You will pass a bin on your way out anyway so just pick it up and drop it off on your way out. Leaving it behind just causes unnecessary mess and work for other people.
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