Theatre Etiquette: Please Don't Sing!
| By Nicky Sweetland
I go to theatre a lot, and I mostly watch musicals. This week alone I have been to four variants of this wonderful entertainment genre. Unfortunately at all of the four venues, my enjoyment of the production was slightly marred by people who just couldn't seem to shut up. Now, I don't mean to sound angry, ok I am angry. There is nothing more annoying that relaxing into you own little musical world only to be dragged back by someone in the audience seemingly unable to be quiet.
My first visit of the week was to the wonderful Miss Saigon at The Prince Edward Theatre. This wasn't my first visit to see this fabulous show, in fact it was my thirteenth, but that doesn't mean that I wasn't hanging on every word and every note of this amazing and award winning cast. I had great seats in the centre stalls so knew I was going to get the very best from the sound and the staging. Unfortunately the couple in front of me had other ideas. They seemed to need to engage with each other at every juncture, which included leaning in to chat, kissing and just generally moving in to my field of vision. Even during some of the most sensitive and sentimental moments, the need to talk was greater than the need to watch and listen. I just managed to not say anything and during act two it was marginally better.
My second visit of the week was to see Mamma Mia! at the Novello Theatre. Again not for the first time, but it had been eleven years since my last visit. I wasn't disappointed and totally fell in love with the show again. This was despite the fact that a middle aged chap behind me felt the need to sing along for pretty much the entire duration of the show. This included during Dianne Pilkington's fabulous rendition of 'The Winner Takes It All', which I was thankful that he obviously didn't know all of the words to so we only got his strangled cat version for the first phrase. Probably a very high percentage of the population knows the words to these songs, but if everyone were to sing along, it would be a bit pointless paying to watch the highly trained professionals do it.
The third visit of the week was to the newly opened Beautiful: The Carole King Musical at the Aldwych Theatre. With rave reviews and famous music by Carole King, this show was a sell out, but again I was blighted by the grey nodding and singing brigade. Don't get me wrong, it's great to be compelled to move by a song, but could you not keep it a little more under wraps when you are among 1500 other people who are all trying to enjoy the stage spectacle? This audience also boasted what we will refer to as an 'agreer'. This is different to someone who barracks and argues with those on stage, and instead feels the compulsion to 'yes' and 'hum' loudly whenever a character says something which is agreeable to them. This literally drives me insane and I had to try very hard to not turn around and shout.
My final visit of the week was to the premier of a new musical at the Theatre Royal, called Seasons Of Love. This show boasted a very rocky soundtrack, but as it was original music, I didn't have to put up with any painful singing from the audience. Instead I had to endure a foot tapper. Now, this may seem like I'm being a little petty, I'm sure you are thinking, but if the said person is vigorously foot tapping while their knee is against the back of your seat, the effect is like sitting in an airplane during severe turbulence. If this wasn't bad enough, the woman next to me spent much of act one looking at her phone, and even though she had it partially inside her bag, the light emitted by it was a huge distraction.
All of these incidences left me scratching my head slightly. Why decide to go to a show if you can't even be interested enough to listen to what's happening? All of the offenders were of the more mature variety who, quite frankly should know better. When you are at the theatre, take a moment to look around you and to realise that you are sharing the experience with others.