Theatre Etiquette

Amidst all the American election news, one story that stood out to me this week was the Peter Hall incident. He is said to have apologised to the Downton Abbey actress Laura Carmichael for interrupting her performance in Uncle Vanya, on press night last Friday. He allegedly fell asleep, woke abruptly without knowing where he was and proceeded to say amongst other things he could have been at home watching TV.

 Mmm Sir Peter Hall, theatrical monarch. I don't think so. He really should have known better, I know he's getting on these days but really unforgivable.

If there's one thing that annoys me is when people shuffle about, whisper loudly to each other, eat their food whilst I'm trying to watch a play and understand what is being said on the stage. Moreover, it is disrespectful to the actors who are not only slogging their guts out on stage, but have worked hard over the course of several weeks/months on a production.  I not only feel that way at the theatre but at the cinema too.

Having said all this, once upon a time things were quite different. In Shakespearean times, members of the audience would throw food or boo actors off stage if their performances weren't up to scratch. Imagine Panto etiquette now times ten! It was quite the custom to vocalise your feelings, the upper classes cheering on their fellow actors whilst the lower classes often having to bear all weathers cheering on their own too. Seems like it was mayhem, those poor actors!

These days it is not the done thing to boo, hiss or even cheer an actor in the midst of their performance. And with good reason, if I'm paying £60-£100 per ticket I don't want to miss a word, thank you very much! Though most importantly, it is terribly disruptive to an actor, they are vulnerable enough up there in front of hundreds of people, without having an audience member shout out against them.

So please if you're ever watching a play in the same theatre as me, please do keep your thoughts to yourself until you have left the building. There, rant over!