I was introduced to drama classes at a young age, and have been fortunate to be able to spend a vast amount of my life in theatres, both as an actor and an audience member. However, I have to remind myself that many people who now visit theatres haven't necessarily had that opportunity.
We all watch Netflix or television, and are used to muting/pausing the action to nick out to get another drink or snack. We check our phones and chat to our friends when the action is slow or the ads are on. We wear our uggies and maybe even an oodie if we are are cold. We might even fall asleep! These are happy times.
For someone like me, however, the theatre is a sacred space. It doesn't matter whether it's a tiny room or the Festival Theatre, whether it's brand new or over a hundred years old, there is something special about the place that performance happens. So I'm here to give everyone some hints about Theatre Etiquette (please don't be offended!)
Some audience members might not realise that the actors can sometimes see them, and definitely hear them (unless sitting near the back in a large auditorium). Other audience members can also see/hear you, and they have paid good money to see the show.
So..... here are some tips for all theatregoers....
Check your phone during the performance. It lights up your face so everyone can see you. There is no subtle way of doing it! It's very distracting.
Leave during the show unless necessary. Theatre creates a magic world of beauty – you walking out, no matter how quietly, pulls the rest of the audience out of that place.
Eat noisy snacks, or eat from noisy packets. Some theatres sell chips and chocolates etc at interval/pre-show. These foods are designed to be eaten in the foyer, not the theatre. In a room of silence, every noise is exaggerated. If you must rustle, do it during a loud musical number/burst of laughter/applause. Remember you are surrounded by people just centimetres away, who paid to hear the show, not a rustling chip packet.
Talk! Seems obvious but the attention is on the actors and for the same reasons above. No-one wants your opinions or recap of what's been going on. Please save it for the foyer.
Wear too much perfume or cologne, it is an allergen for some people and the other audience members are in close proximity.
Be punctual. The show start time is not when you should arrive at the theatre. Always aim to be there early in case of traffic delays/parking issues. It shows respect for the actors and the rest of the audience.
Turn your phone on silent – most theatres still remind you to do it. If you are expecting an important call which you must accept, book an aisle seat and let the Front of House staff know that you may need to leave. Ideally you will have a quiet ringtone for this purpose, and walk out of the auditorium before you answer. Wait until interval or a scene change to re-enter, as long as it's safe to do so.
Bring children to the show – if it's appropriate and they will be well behaved. If we are watching the Wiggles we expect a certain amount of chatting/rustling etc. If it's Les Mis..... not so much! If they must eat snacks, bring something quiet in a quiet package. And please take them out if they are noisy or distracting, for everyone's sake.
Gasp! Laugh! Sigh! Be present and react accordingly. You do not need to be silent, just engaged.
Buy a drink/snack at the theatre. This is how most smaller theatres make money, please support them by buying something, they have also struggled over the past couple of years.
Be appreciative. Clap at the end, cheer if you like. This is the chance to thank the entire team who have put the show together.
If you have anything to add, feel free to comment below :)