Monday, 28 October 2013

Theatre etiquette - where has it gone?

I have recently been confronted on more than one occasion by what can only be described as 'theatre bad behaviour' which has certainly not enhanced my view - particularly of the 'younger generation'. 

At the recent Melbourne International Arts Festival I was thrilled to be invited to see the world renowned dancer Sylvie Guillam and Russell Maliphant. Their dancing was unforgetable. It was just sublime in every way. 

So there we were in row 3 (almost too close to the stage but who am I to complain) when a mother and daughter in front of us proceeded to move their heads closer together in order to whisper what can only be described as 'sweet nothings' to each other. After all this was modern dance - the first 3 dances were with a single person (no story that needed to be 'explained'). Well I'd finally had enough and lightly tapped the mother on the shoulder during the 3rd dance. 

At the interval I said to the daughter (30ish) - the main culprit - "Please don't speak through the performance. If you want to talk you can do so during the intervals but not during the dance - it spoils it for everyone". Her reply began with  "I'm going report you for touching my mother". Well that was a wonderful opening not just for me but those surrounding them. "It's disrespectful to the dancers", said one, and from another "You've ruined the first three dances for us with your head moving and your whispering". The reply was a 'classic'.  "But my mother and I like talking to each other and we were just whispering quietly". With that one of the patrons 'reported' them to the usher. Two of those sitting behind them did not return to their seats after the interval - they found a less confronting seat. One wonders if they noticed or realised why! Or even cared! And guess what - as soon as the show was over - both mother and daughter were onto their mobile phones!

And talking of mobile phones I was at the Italian Film Festival the other day and my neighbour must have been waiting for the 'boyfriend' to call. She spent most of her time during the film either with her head peeping into her handbag to check her phone and when she wasn't checking her phone she was dropping things which meant she needed to crawl around the floor and then flop back in her seat sending seat shockwaves along the row. Unbelievable! 

I could go on and on an on. And then there was the older woman at a Metropolitan Opera Film answering her phone "Hello. How are you? Look I can't talk now I'm seeing a film. I'll ring you later". She couldn't understand how she offended! And she - of the 'older' generation who should have known better! 

I was fascinated to read the following from the website 
* Dear Lovebirds, when you lean your heads together, you block the view of the people behind you. 
* Please consider the people that will be seated behind you when choosing whether or not to wear a hat or what hair style you choose
* Please refrain from talking, humming, or singing along with the show, except when encouraged to do so by the artist or show.
*Please wait for an appropriate moment to dig something out of your pocket or bag. 

Whispering, whistling, large hats - no, no, no (pinterest)
But it was the well respected arts commentator  Radio National's Alison Croggan in her Miss A's Guide to Theatre Etiquette who really summed it up - as follows:
Remember that you are in the same room as a lot of other people, including actors, who can both see and hear you. All else follows from this.

Rule 1: Turn off any electronic devices about your person, and leave them off. Embarrassment Moment No. 1 is your phone ringing during a play. An actor might even break the fourth wall and comment on your solecism from the stage, thus holding you up to public mockery and ridicule.
Rule 2. Checking email, Twitter, messages and so on during the show is right out. Lighting designers spend a lot of time getting their lighting right, and a constant bloom of flickering smartphones in the auditorium stuffs it right up, especially in that carefully crafted blackout. And no, you're not allowed to take photos.
Rule 3. Even if everything that is happening on stage makes you shrivel with horror and/or boredom, refrain from expressing your outrage and disappointment out loud until the show is finished. Unless, that is, you are invited by the performers to do so, in which case go right ahead.
Rule 4. If the boredom, horror and detestation get overwhelming and you have to leave, do so with as little disturbance to your fellow audience members as possible. Does the rest of the audience need to know how appalled you are? No. They might even be enjoying themselves.
Rule 5. You don't really need to discuss Aunt Madge's terrible disease in a loud whisper with your neighbour during the climactic moments. Really, you don't. Other people can hear you, and would Aunt Madge be comfortable with that?
Rule 6. Leave your handicrafts at home. No knitting, crocheting or whittling allowed.
Rule 7. Even the best-intentioned theatre goers can be ambushed by a cough. Carry a kit of Anticol and tissues. If you have a very bad coughing fit that can't be controlled, leave the theatre until it is over.
Rule 8. Never take a child under 11 to adult theatre, unless you are very sure he or she will enjoy it. It's not fair on the child, you, the rest of the audience or the performers.
Rule 9. Take - but don't force - children over 11 to the theatre, after impressing upon them (with threats if necessary) that they can be seen and heard by other patrons and the actors. Discuss the show with them beforehand (so they have some idea what to expect) and answer their questions afterwards. Not during the show.
Rule 10. If you fall asleep, don't snore. Make a pact with a companion to wake you up if your snorts start rippling through the auditorium. Speaking of which: isn't the theatre an expensive place for a snooze?
Rule 11. Don't snack. Especially don't snack on chips or anything that rustles or crackles. I promise you will not starve to death.
Rule 12. Silence in a theatre is okay. Really, it is.

Did I miss anything?

No comments:

Post a Comment