As a regular theatre-goer, and having completed three graduate year drama school shows in the past six months, I find myself frequently frustrated by modern theatre etiquette – or the seeming lack of it. What has happened to the premise of what is and what is not acceptable in a theatre auditorium?
Many will have heard, or experienced, horror stories where the manners and behaviour of some audience members are concerned – but it’s the little things that people seem to have resigned to the inevitability of that frustrates more than the obscene actions of a singular audience member.
The rustling of sweets, chatter whilst the performance is in full swing, the flash of a camera phone taking a photograph – all little things, but nonetheless very demeaning to those on stage (and the rest of the audience giving the performers their full attention, and given the often high ticket prices they have paid).
On more than one occasion have I seen someone holding aloft a very indiscreet iPad, quite clearly recording the performance. Not only is this unacceptable behaviour but also on most occasions breaking the law, as copyright laws prohibit the recording of performances.
Most people seem to be good at making sure the rest of the audience are not subject to their embarrassing ringtone’s during the performance, although the buzz of vibrate mode is still a major bugbear, but the glow of screens seems to have become commonplace in the modern auditorium. In a darkened auditorium it is glaringly obvious and still frowned upon, but this does not seem to deter such behaviour in some audience members.
Live theatre is not a TV show or a film that you can rewind, or repeat watch if you miss something, you are watching a unique performance that is never exactly the same from night to night – that’s something special that an audience member should revel in, and want to make sure they catch every single moment of. In live theatre the audience are as much a part of the performance as the actors are, and you certainly wouldn’t expect the actors to whip out their phones and check Facebook, or take a quick selfie, in the middle of a performance.
The declining behaviour of audience members seems to have coincided with the declining standard of attire that audience members wear to the theatre. Now, I’m not suggesting that white tie and tails should be required to visit the theatre, but I am a firm believer that an audience member should look presentable, and to a certain extent smart. The decline of dressing standards has cheapened the experience of a visit to the theatre in my opinion – perhaps I digress and this conclusion has no real evidence, but you can make a case for the correlation.
Reality television and celebrity culture may also have played its part, as every other week a new “star” from the types of show like X-Factor is cast in a new theatrical production. Perhaps fans of celebrity casting (maybe not ordinarily theatre goers) treat the performance like they would if they were sat in front of their television’s, where using your phone might be commonplace?
But the fact remains, can people really not switch off from the outside world for a mere few hours? Can people really not trust their eyes and memories to capture the beauty of live theatre, knowing they will share something special with fellow theatre-goers? Isn’t that what theatre is for, to escape from reality and to be transported elsewhere?
There is no excuse to be sat looking at your phone in a theatre. The actors, creatives and stage crew work very hard to entertain you – if you’d rather be somewhere else, or rather be sending text messages, by all means please leave and let the people that do wish to be entertained enjoy themselves without disruption.
Share your thoughts on theatre via social media by all means, but for the love of theatre leave it until the interval or when the curtain falls.
We’re convinced that all our readers are perfectly behaved at the theatre, but perhaps you’d like to share our theatre etiquette top tips with inconsiderate audience members.