Bristol Theatre News

Theatre Etiquette isn’t Dying, It’s Dead


Audience etiquette at the theatre is something that is endlessly debated on social media. There are those who love a natter with their friends, sharing sweets and Tweeting about the show whilst its in progress. To combat those who want to join in, one West End musical has even introduced sing-a-long performances.

But on the other hand, there are those who like to immerse themselves in the performance. Those who like to suspend their disbelief for a couple of hours and find the growing community aspect of it disruptive and rude. A person scrolling through their Facebook news feed or replying to texts causing distraction from the phone light, the movement and the sheer bloody outrage of their behaviour is bang out of order. But even this only falls into the midway spectrum of Bloody Outrageous.

During the summer holidays, I went to see four big shows. One on a UK tour and three in London’s West End. When you are paying around £85 plus for a seat, disruption is more than annoying, it makes one quite murderous. Quite how one person managed to leave the auditorium without being throttled shows how much I have grown in self-restraint.

Whilst I can retrospectively forgive a child who booted me in the back for two solid hours at a show aimed at children, it is difficult to understand how adults think allowing their child to do this in the first place is anywhere near acceptable to being with.

When did it become OK to disrupt entire sections of the audience with bad behaviour? And this isn’t about people with disabilities, this is about rude and disruptive behaviour from people who just don’t care.

Yes, I do judge. I judge people arriving at a show with a Tesco carrier bag of picnic items. I’ve sat next to people who have eaten sushi, pizza, something spicy and unidentifiable. People loudly sucking Magnums. People licking crisps. With the exception of diabetics, there is no need to arrive with a three course meal for 2.5 hour musical.

During The Woman in Black, a family three rows behind me spent the entire first act sharing out a box of sweets. Each sweet was individually wrapped and there was some vocal disagreement about who was eating which sweet. If you have seen this play, you will know it is performed by two actors who work together to create a chilling and tense atmosphere. This is not helped by Sandra in G row arguing with her grown-up children about who’s having the soft centre.

But nothing prepared me for the woman sitting next to me in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. She spent the entire first half taking her phone in and out of her bag to send texts, restyle her hair, remove her shoes and put her trotters on the back of the seat in front of her and then, AND THEN… She rested her wine glass complete with drink on my lap.

By this point I had my I Want To Speak To The Manager Face and wasn’t sure how I hadn’t poked her one in the eye. She didn’t last the second half. She got up and left part way through. If it had been in the middle of Margaret New’s eleven o’clock song, I would have followed her out and folded her into a sanitary towel bin in the ladies’ toilets.

It’s getting to the point that going to the theatre becomes really stressful because there’s always someone there who ruins it for the person next to them.

I have an equation for this:


DB  = PR

That is: Theatre Show + Ticket Price divided by Disruptive Behaviour = Proportional Response.

I firmly believe that a paint gun sniper in the upper circle aimed at anyone checking a mobile phone or being loud with confectionery during a show deserves a hit as a Proportional Response.

Until that method of crowd control is adopted, be prepared to be folded into the sanitary bin at the interval.


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