So you're sat in a theatre. The music is good. The acting is good. The staging is good. But … something is wrong. You try to detect a reason for this niggling imperfection. But your usual suspects pass inspection: the auditorium is at an acceptable temperature; you're not pre-occupied with some unrelated concern; the food you had for lunch was in date. And then you find yourself coming to the sad realisation that your problem is in fact the person – or, the people – with whom you are sat.
Perhaps they're trying to whisper to you, or not really watching the show – or perhaps you suspect that they will criticise the performance during the interval, and effectively kill the mood. So you've chosen the wrong theatrical companion – but how do you ever chose the right one?
There are a number of essential things to look out for when choosing your ideal theatrical companion. They are as follows:
The candidate must be enthusiastic. If you are likely to burst into an excited and lengthy session of rambling after the show, you'll want your companion to be joining in. Sitting with somebody who lacks enthusiasm could be seriously detrimental to your own spirits.
A theatrical companion must be well versed in Theatre Etiquette – the ideal companion will have read at least parts two and three of the Theatre Etiquette series published here at LTD.
A theatre-snob often makes a difficult companion. Unless you're seeing something which you know they will like, you may spend the whole show worrying about their opinion. Think before you take this person.
If you are going to see a show that is quite sober like Phantom Of The Opera or 1984 your companion must not be incessantly silly. The opposite also applies: a show that doesn't take itself too seriously should not be taken too seriously!
Smaller issues can be just as important to look out for:
Bladder control. Whilst it could be awkward to broach the topic of bladder control with a potential candidate, a suitable test could easily be constructed to determine whether or not they will be able to last an act. I will leave the details up to you.
The laugh. Without wanting to sound mean, somebody with an extremely annoying laugh might not be the best person to take to a comedy. But this only applies in extreme cases.
The talker. Some people just can't stop talking. If they are going to sit through the whole show and talk to you instead of watching, leave them behind.
The health-freak. Nobody wants to feel bad about eating sweets, chocolates, crisps (the list goes on) before and after a show. The health-freak can wreck your mood just as easily as the person with no bladder control.
Of course, there are also a couple of nice perks to look out for when choosing your companion. These little bonuses could mark the difference between an acceptable companion, and a great one.
If you are taking a trip to London, and want to make a day of it, a great companion will like at least some of the same things as you (other than theatre). This could allow you to fill your day more easily with things that both of you will enjoy.
A superb candidate will give a standing ovation with you – even if you are the only two people doing this in the whole audience. Look for solidarity.
If you are going to see a show such as Miss Saigon, it is wise to take a companion around whom you can be emotional – someone who can give you a good hug.
If you find a candidate who fits most of these qualifications, you should consider yourself lucky. A good theatrical companion is like a life-raft in the stormy ocean of life. Or, the stormy ocean of theatre – if there is any difference at all.
All that's left to do is to enjoy the show!
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