Noises off – grumpy in the stalls

Why is it that I now seem to remember a production or venue more for the fellow audience members than for any artistic endeavours onstage?

Now audience etiquette does evolve and bad behaviour is by no means limited to theatres – just don’t get me started on cinema audiences but I do wonder why some people splash out on tickets when they have no interest on what is going on onstage.

To avoid any potential lawsuits I wont name the theatres involved but all the below are genuine experiences over the last year.
Quote from the second row “It’s nice to see you are suitably attired for the theatre, why don’t people wear evening dress anymore”
Mother and son eating their Big Mac Meal in the auditorium during the show (craftily trying to hide the Mcdonalds bag in her handbag)
Quote during the interval “I’m going to stop supporting this theatre if they continue to sell tickets to foreigners”
The running commentary from the row behind
People who sit at the end of the row as soon as the doors open and then complain when you want to get past them to your seat
Heckling/joining in – seems to be a new trend with musicals especially
And of course the now common trend of watching the glow of mobile phone/blackberry screens throughout the auditorium as people text throughout the show -obviously such important messages that cant wait until the interval.

There are even some theatres where you go expecting to have to battle the audience. One local theatre is renowned for their ‘evil’ audience who will literally shove you out of the way and look down their nose at you for daring to be in ‘their’ theatre while another will openly complain if you dare to want to leave your seat in the interval. It is also fun to eavesdrop on the one-up-manship at another as the worthy extol how much they support the arts then go on to say the last production they saw was The Sound of Music 8 years ago.

Theatres constantly strive to attract new audiences but both new and old need to understand some basic rules of audience going. Front of House staff also need to play their part in policing the auditorium, something that seems to be lacking at the moment.

So as the Olivier Awards are handed out to the theatrical community in London tonight in no particular order my awards for pet hates from audiences go to:

1) Synchronised coughing -one cough starts a game of I can cough louder and more often than you
2) Running commentary – thank you I did wonder why the vicar had just hid himself in the wardrobe
3) Latecomers – always three rows from the front in the centre and carrying 8 carrier bags
4) Chatting over overtures – as the orchestra gets louder so does the conversation
5) Rustling – lets buy the most overwrapped sweets we can and then eat them in the quietest moment
6) Mobile Phones – the bright blue nuclear glow throughout the show
7) Arm wrestlers – I think you’ll find I have purchased half your seat as well
8) The Shopper – why put my 12 bags of shopping in the cloakroom when I can put them in front of you
9) The weak bladder – I must run to the loo 30 seconds before the show starts from the middle of the row
10) The karaoke singer – why did I pay £60 to hear the star sing this when you can sing it flat and out of time?

Yours grumpily from the stalls….

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