We’ve all been there. Lights go down, you wait for the silence and then… the unmistakable sound of the rustle of a bag of sweets. If you’re super lucky they’re individually wrapped. As someone who goes to the theatre many many times a year the same things tend to irritate me as an audience member on a semi-regular basis, namely rustling food, mobile phone screens and badly behaved children. Strap yourselves in for a bit of a rant.
My first criticism of theatres is that they practically encourage eating during a show by selling crisps, chocolate, sweets, popcorn, ice lollies etc. etc. before the show begins, rarely in a container that doesn’t make some form of rustling sound. I don’t know very many people who can’t go 1 hour without eating – there is a 15 to 20 minute interval to eat, drink and make as much noise as you like without disturbing either the people around you or more importantly those on stage. I’ve genuinely sat in the same row as someone eating katsu curry with a knife and fork before… Just bizarre.
The digital age has brought a new problem to theatre front of house staff – mobile phones and more specifically those people who cannot leave them alone for an hour to get lost in the performance in front of them. Numerous actors have expressed numerous times how disturbing the bright light in the audience is for them on stage. To be honest if you think what’s on your phone is more interesting than what’s on the stage just don’t bother attending the theatre.
Going to the theatre is, for most people, a social event. In every theatre across the world you’re going to find couples on dates, groups of women on hen dos and friends who haven’t seen each other in a while amongst the audience. This doesn’t, however, give any one of them an excuse to continue explaining why the date they went on last weekend was the worst they’ve ever had once Glinda starts descending on her bubble. If you can’t save your chit chat for before, after or during the interval of a show then you should have just gone to your local Pizza Express and spent your evening there gassing to your heart’s content.
In addition to this. Do. Not. Sing. Along. To. Musicals. Ok Susan, we get it, we too know all the words to Circle of Life, but I didn’t pay £100 to listen to you sing it out of key. Save your rendition for your shower, please.
Disclaimer: I love seeing children at the theatre. The younger children get exposed to theatre the better in my opinion. I went to my first regional musical at 6 and first West End show at 9 and that sparked the passion at a young age. Most shows do have an age advisory or even restriction (not that I’ve ever seen this enforced), with most advising children being at least 6 to watch a show. However, this is obviously left to parental discretion meaning often there are children much younger than this in the audience.
If children cannot sit still and quiet for 2 hours and 45 minutes they are not ready to be in a theatre. There are places to take kids to ‘try them out’ – panto, Disney on Ice, or shows such as What the Ladybird Heard which played throughout last summer aimed at a younger audience. They may not be as thrilling for adults but it’s better than wasting £75 or more on a ticket for a child that won’t even enjoy the show, and you’ll know for the future whether it’s worth your time.
The majority of children are impeccably behaved and it’s not their fault if they’re bored. Sitting still for that long at any age is a difficult thing to ask!
Going to the theatre is by no means cheap, and for some people it is a real treat that can be completely ruined by other members of the audience. What are your thoughts? Leave them in the comments.
– Becca & Gemma –
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