Etiquette tips: What not to do at the theatre
09:50 30 September 2009
Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig broke box office records for their latest play, the hard-hitting character drama 'A Steady Rain', earning over $1m while the show was still in its Broadway previews stage.
In addition, they also broke the 'fourth wall' (the invisible divide between actors in the play and audience in reality) by stopping mid-scene to direct their disdain towards a member of the audience whose phone started loudly ringing.
Remaining fully in character as Chicago cops, the duo received applause, cheers and laughter for their swift justice on stage in a stunt that could've destroyed the dramatic buildup.
Other actors including Richard Griffiths and Kevin Spacey have been known to demand silence more forcibly when a mobile has gone off on-stage.
Griffiths once demanded that the guilty party leave the theatre and never come back, telling one unfortunate lady that "the 750 people here would be fully justified in suing you for ruining their afternoon".
While this may be a steep punishment, it is certainly one which can be avoided by following a few simple rules regarding theatre etiquette. After all, the show must go on
- Arrive early and take your seat well before the show starts. If you are caught up, don't just waltz in mid-performance wait for a gap in the act and consult the ushers on your best move. Many theaters have a television screen in the lobby showing the performance while you wait.
- Keep your party in check. Suggest that the tallest member of your group to sit in a seat that doesn't block the person directly behind. More importantly, don't let any children with you spoil the show for others. Take them to the bathroom before the show begins and brief them on noise levels and general behavior before taking your seats.
- Settle in before the show. The golden rule is ensuring that all mobile phones (and alarms etc) are switched off, or at least on vibrate. If it does go off, do not answer it, turn it off straight away. If it's incredibly urgent, leave the room. If you have brought noisy sweets as snacks (never a good idea in the first place), ensure they're unwrapped before the show starts
- Eating during the performance. In practice, this is quite rude for an actor to see but if needs must ensure that the noisier of snacks are consumed during a loud segment of the play such as applause, laughter or loud music. Unless impossible, save snacking for the intermission.
- Keep your noise levels down. An odd whispered comment to a member of your party is fine but don't make a habit out of it. Respect your neighbours and actors by remaining alert to the play itself. Save your comments for the end and don't start chatting to strangers who may not want to be bothered.
- Respect the venue. Keep your feet off the chairs in front of you and do not film the performance or take copious amounts of pictures (particularly with the flash on). It is distracting and unnecessary.
- Applaud the show. Many actors will appreciate an audience's positive reaction, boosting their confidence. Don't just take it as a given if you liked the show, reiterate it to the cast and crew with warm gratitude between acts and especially at the end.
- Not enjoying the experience? Leave. Don't stay and make noisy, overly-critical comments and spoil everyone else's enjoyment. If you do exit, try not to make a scene of it. Be discreet and respectful.
- When the show is over
Don't stampede to the exits it is both rude towards those who put the play on to leave in record time, and it creates an unnecessary struggle for your neighbours.