If you are a regular theatre-goer or member of the performing industry, then I’m sure you will know the basics of theatre etiquette.
The theatre has been a civilised hobby for people throughout history. We love going there to lose ourselves; to become enthralled in a world different from our own. A world where people can break into song and dance at any given moment… It’s a truly beautiful place to be.
However, sadly some people don’t know how to be respectful when they attend a live show.
There is a big difference between going to the theatre and going to see a film at the cinema, people! The actors on the screen may not be able to see you pulling out your phones mid-film and hear your rustling popcorn packets, but the performers on stage can.
So, here are some simple rules of theatre etiquette you should familiarise yourself with before the next time you decide to go see a show and crack your phone out on the front row.
Turn your phone off
Getting your phone out in the middle of a performance is both distracting and insulting to the actors onstage. If you aren’t enjoying the show then politely wait until the interval and then leave. If you are enjoying it, don’t use your phone as an opportunity to text your friend or check the football scores. Be polite.
Don’t take photographs
On the same note as having your phone out, don’t take pictures of the shows. Again, it is distracting for the performers, it is also obstructing the view and off-putting to the people sat in the seats behind you. If an usher sees you taking a photo or video they will ask you to delete it in front of them, so save yourself the embarrassment.
Have a drink, have a snack, but keep it down
Chocolates are great for the theatre, but noisy foods like crisps are just a bit rude. They’re bothersome to the other audience members. People don’t want to hear you cracking into your Hula Hoops while Fantine is dying.
If you enjoyed the show and want to get the autographs of your favourite actors then that’s awesome. Make sure you have a pen to hand and a page ready for them to sign. Please don’t bring every fan shirt for every member of your family. The performers have had a long day and will want to get home to their partners and children.
Also don’t be too offended if they rush past you – they have a life too and may need to run to wish a friend happy birthday before the bar closes at 11pm.
Keep away from Twitter…
…if you have nothing nice to say. If you didn’t enjoy the show in general then OK, everyone has an opinion. But don’t single out a specific performer and declare to all of Twitter that they are naff. People have feelings and comments like that can be very damaging.
Don’t be a troll.
Arrive on time
If the show starts at 7.30pm, make sure you are there before that time. The aim is to START at the designated time, so if you arrive late then you will distract audience members who did get there on time. Nobody likes it when you ask them to stand up to let you through to your seat, just because you are late.
Most theatres won’t let you enter straight away if the show has already started. They will only let you in if there is a suitable point in the show that won’t disrupt the performance. Some can be even more brutal and deny you access at all, so plan accordingly and be on time.
Please don’t sing along
When my parents went to see Jersey Boys in the West End they were so excited to see it. When they came out, they were deflated after having their show ruined by a woman sat in front of them who was singing along to every song. Yes, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons have some bangers, but people pay to hear the ACTORS sing, not you.
If you want to sing along, go to The Greatest Showman sing-along at the cinema. I’m pretty sure there are still showings…
As we wrap up this lesson in theatre etiquette, can I draw your attention to the legendary moment when Patti Lupone yelled at an audience member for taking pictures of her mid-show…
If you want to avoid a Patti Lupone-style takedown, take my advice and just be polite. And to the ladies watching the penalty shoot-out in the middle of Titanic, the scores would have still been the same after you left the theatre. Don’t be a knob next time.
You have been warned!
PS. It’s coming home.