How To Behave In The Theatre

Posted on 14 October 2014

I love the theatre. I’ve loved it for as long as I can remember; there’s nothing like it. For two hours, you can lose yourself, and the rest of the world can wait. I love it.

But lately it feels like people don’t really want to lose themselves. They’d rather chat, text, eat – do anything, in fact, except sit quietly and watch what they’ve paid to come and see. And this bugs me, so here’s my guide to good theatre etiquette.

1. Arrive on time
Once the show’s started, people want to watch it – not look at your back as you shuffle awkwardly to your seat, or listen to you loudly discuss which row you should be in. Of course we all know delays happen, especially in London, but if you do arrive late, try and do it with as little fuss as possible. 

2. Sit still
Firstly because there’s nothing more annoying than trying to see round someone in the row in front who can’t keep their head still. But secondly because a lot of London theatres are quite old. They have squeaky chairs. And squeaky chairs – well, squeak. Which is not what you want to hear during a particularly emotional monologue. 

3. Turn your phone off
Or you might find yourself facing the wrath of Kevin Spacey (a.k.a. my new hero). But seriously, have some respect. This might be a bit of fun for you, but for the people on stage, it’s their job. They’ve worked hard, and they shouldn’t have to compete with whoever’s on the other end of the phone.

4. Remember where you are
You’re not at home on the sofa watching TV. You’re in a theatre, surrounded by other people, all of whom have paid good money to be there. So please save your conversation – whether it’s about the play or not – for the interval. 

5. Enjoy yourself
Isn’t that why you’re there? I don’t understand people who only to go to the theatre to find fault. Going to the theatre anywhere, but especially in London, isn’t cheap (if it were, I’d be there every week) so why would you spend all that money only to be miserable?

I feel a lot of the above should be common sense, but more and more it seems it’s not. It only takes a few people to ruin the experience for everyone, and that makes me sad. Theatre’s brilliant; let’s keep it that way. Your fellow theatregoers will thank you, and so will I.

By Liz Dyer