How to Behave at the Theatre

Jen Symes (left) as Nickie, Vicky Geary (centre) as Charity and me (right) as Helene in Sweet Charity
Some of the cast of BYT's Footloose in 2009

I love going to the theatre. Big budget musicals, tiny touring productions and amateur shows are, for me, a treat to watch. Even if I don’t enjoy the show, I still always take something away from it, and quickly book my next theatre trip. Since I was 13, I’ve performed in youth musicals. I did a summer course with Youth Music Theatre, where we wrote a musical and performed it at the end of the week. I’ve been to Stagecoach. I’ve done terms and summer schools with Upstage. Playing Mary Poppins at an Upstage summer school was my first time singing on stage, and definitely one of the best experiences! I then did a few shows at Brookdale Youth Theatre, in Bramhall, where I got to understudy and play Cosette in Les Miserables, play Mrs Molloy in Hello Dolly, Ariel in Footloose and Helene in Sweet Charity. This doesn’t even include school productions, showcases, and choir concerts and tours. The point I’m trying to make is that I know what goes into putting together a performance, and the time and effort put in by the performers and the huge team backstage, even for a small amateur production. Translating those experiences and my love of watching theatre, I now write my own arts and events reviews – have a look at them here:

I met my boyfriend as we played Cosette and Marius in 2008... he's not run away yet!

Jess, me and Tess as members of the crew in a Return to the Forbidden Planet Upstage summer school

A trip to the theatre last week reminded me of one of the problems with this setting: the other people in the audience. I’m a bit of a people-watcher, and the way some people act at the theatre I find baffling. Theatre has changed in that it is now more accessible, and not reserved for the expensively-dressed elite, which is fantastic, as it means theatre can be shared. But it has meant that some people have begun to treat the theatre like the local cinema, or their own front rooms.

Here are my top gripes with theatre audiences:

  1. Noisy sweet eating – shhhhh, the rustling of sweet papers can be one of the most annoying noises in the world, especially during a quiet scene. Wait for a loud bang, shout, musical number or scene change.
  2. Talking during scenes – this should not need to be pointed out! However, at a recent show, the couple behind me discussed every scene. Every scene. Whilst it was unfolding on stage. Thanks, you’ve just ruined my experience of that show.
  3. Going in and out for toilet breaks – realistically, the average act is a maximum of an hour and a half. If you really need such regular loo breaks, do us all a favour and get an aisle seat. Also, you’re missing the action: are you mad?
  4. Arriving late – it’s not as if the start time isn’t on your ticket. Set off in enough time. Otherwise, the stewards have to show you to your seat with those annoying little torches, and you might have to make other people stand whilst you hustle and bustle into your seats.
  5. Leaving early – I watched The Phantom of the Opera in Manchester last year, and 5 couples sitting in front of me left the theatre DURING the final song. Many more left during the bows. Show some respect for the performers, and the other audience members who are trying to enjoy the final scenes. We’ve all paid good money for these seats, and can’t all afford to throw it away and miss the climax of the show. And when a show has been as fantastic as that production was, let’s give the actors the applause they deserve! If you’re that desperate to run to your car and avoid the traffic, just stay at home.

Most of my points amount to one thing: show some respect for theatre. You’re not watching something pre-recorded, the actors are performing right in front of you. And they, more often than not, are doing it well. So sit back, relax, enjoy the performance, and soak up the atmosphere. And, most of all, let’s give them the applause they have earned. Don’t sneak out before the bows, and choose your snack choices carefully!


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