The theatre is a wonderful way to spend a section of your time, in the evening with friends, catch a matinee with family or finding yourself in London with nothing to do for 3 hours so you slip the last ticket to the hottest show at the box office - whatever your scenario everyone has their theatre first time, and it’s important that they get the best experience possible. Not only an issue for the newbies, long-time theatre goers like myself can (and have) had shows completely derailed by the behaviour of the an audience.
The biggest faux pas of an audience is not understanding if and when it is appropriate to join in with a theatre show; if you don’t know with 100% certainty that it will be well received by the actors on stage and the audience around you then keep your mouth closed for the duration of the performance - there is a reason the spotlight is on them and not you. Some pantomimes and comedy clubs may well allow a heckle or two to add to the spice and variety of life theatre, shucks the fact it’s interactive is one of the joys of life theatre. That said many stand-up comedians, especially the long for story tellers and anecdotalists request you don’t join in, because the pace of the show is disturbed. If you’re going to see a play, I would say 100% of the time, they do not wan’t you to heckle, unless they ask you a direct question!
Look at it on face value, an audience has paid to watch a show, they deserve to see the show in full without disturbance. The possibility that what you as a heckler has to say is more interesting or funny that what has been crafted over months of writing and rehearsals is a very rare, the actors on the stage nine times out of ten, don’t want it. So let us summarise DON’T HECKLE.
Wow you’ve got the latest iPhone? You have over 100 followers on instagram? Dianne from Facebook added you as a friend? Great! These are all things you can worry about after the show. If you’re checking your phone throughout the show, even on the least bright setting, this is a distraction for those around you. If you’re asked to put your phones on silent at the start of the show, extend that 2 second curtesy to the performers - when your ringtone of ‘Lady Humps’ by the Black Eyed Peas starts blaring out 10 minutes into the show, you disrupt the flow of the show. For someone like me, who is easily distracted by sounds, sudden movement, dust particles, a ringtone can really take my attention away for some time, and I know I’m not alone in the audience. Sometimes people forget that with live theatre you can’t pause the show whilst you answer your phone or rewind something because you missed it, if I am distracted at an important revelation in the plot, I may never know that the murder weapon was a knife.
The other distraction which makes me want to turn myself inside out is people talking. Obviously I don’t want to police an audience, I want everyone to enjoy the show and if you saying “I knew it was him” or “I wasn’t expecting that” helps with your enjoyment fill your boots. However Dorothy and Mavis having a chat about what they had for dinner mid way through act 2, you can get in the bin. I don’t mind it if someone has to explain a joke or a plot-twist to their significant other, it helps with their enjoyment of the show, but “When we did this in our a-level performance we did it with just 3 school chairs and we cut this bit because we didn’t feel it went with our view of the play…” save it for your blog Karen.
Whoever the capitalist was who though noisy food should be allowed in the theatre needs to be hung drawn and quartered! The other day I was at the Theatre and the person next to me had a tray of nachos - the loudest of all food. At the Victoria Apollo in London (Wicked) they sell buckets, BUCKETS of popcorn, too loud, and the smell of popcorn does not take me to the emerald city. Then we have backs of sweets, Jesus heaven and earth, you unwrapping a sweet in slow motion to try reduce the sound of the paper amplifies it. EAT BEFORE YOU COME. It’s two maybe three hours, believe me you aren’t going to starve in that time - I think people do it so all of their senses are stimulated, but realistically, there is no need…
This one is short and sweet - you’re not Idina Menzel, you’re a good singer, but I haven’t paid £50 to listen to your karaoke version of the musical so please shut up. Some musicals now put on bespoke “Sing-A-Long” nights, where they encourage the audience to join in… go to these…
TIME KEEPING AND TOILETS
In an alternative reality where I have the ability to control the door policies of every theatre up and down the country I would be bolting those doors shut during the performance. If you leave your house 10/15 minutes earlier than you think then you will arrive early and will not spoil the first 5 minutes of the play whilst I have to stand up because it is sods law that the late comers are housed in the two vacant seats near me. The times are on the tickets, the confirmation e-mails quite often the MASSIVE BILLBOARDS, please, just turn up on time.
Then we have the frequent toilet goers, if you’re sat 10 minutes before the show starts thinking “god I need the wee wee’s”, then you ignore these feelings and thing “No, I’ll go during the act one turning point to make the biggest impact on the viewing experience of my fellow audience members”, then you my friend are the worst, you should have to visit every theatre with a big ol’ badge that says “I am the worst”, and at the end of the show you should have to stand by the front doors apologising to everyone saying “Sorry for disturbing the show, I am the worst”.
If you have a genuine medical condition where you need to do the wee wee’s more, then you are not the worst.