Are Audiences Ruining Theatre in the UK?

Lewis Baird

We've all been there, spent £40 on a ticket to enjoy a night at the theatre and some idiot decides to ruin a show, by talking throughout the performance, pulling out their mobile phone and basically just ignoring theatre etiquette. But, is it happening all too often now?

To me, going to the theatre has always been a special occasion where no matter what I am going to see, I know I am entering a caring and respectful environment. However, within the last few years, I have noticed more and more that people are becoming so disrespectful while watching performances. First, I encountered it while seeing Mary Poppins the musical. In act two a drunk man started cheering, talking, and making a racket throughout the performance, it was getting to a certain point where I couldn't hear the hard-working actors on stage. I kept thinking, "Where the hell are the ushers? They should be all over this!" After the performance ended and the man still continuing to shout throughout the majority of the finale of the performance, I was leaving the theatre and saw people were clearly not happy, there was a huge queue next to the front of house staff to complain to them. It could have been dealt with swiftly, by telling him to be quiet. I don't believe there was a warning given, surprisingly.

Another instance was when I went to see Sister Act the musical. A woman two seats along from me kept bringing her phone out and the light was very irritating. Luckily, the theatre had an excellent front of house staff and a torchlight was swiftly shone on the culprit and she was told to get her phone away. However, 15 minutes later it was back out, then the super-bouncer came down and told her to get the phone away or she was out. She took the message. I attended a performance of Mamma Mia, the woman behind me wouldn't shut up and kept singing the full way through the show. I get this is a jukebox show, but no one else was singing, not until the end anyway. So, after a death stare from me and my friend, her whining, I mean singing, ceased.

The most recent thing that happened to me was when I went to see Matilda the musical, at the Cambridge theatre in London. The kids in front of me were standing most of the time through the performance, the parents knew they were blocking our view, however, failed to do anything until act one ended when we hinted we couldn’t see.

But even though I have gone through these events, some of the things I have heard recently are just ridiculous. Such as people answering their phone during a performance, people shouting at performers, people arriving late and then binging on fast food during a performance. It’s just crazy what people think is appropriate.

Can people not just come in, watch a performance, be content and leave without looking at their phones, chit chatting throughout the performance or making other audience members have to smell and hear them devour their dinner?

All I and most of the people who visit the theatre, ask is that if you are in the audience then be a part of the experience, don't ruin a performance for others. A theatre is an escape place for people from modern society, it takes us to a world where everyone bursts into singing and dancing, where there are tension and drama, there are mystery and wonder, or there are colour and brightness. Let an audience be taken to the place the director wants them to be taken. Don't disturb it by being selfish. If you feel like you cannot stay away from your phone or cease noise for that long. Then the theatre is definitely not for you, don’t go.

We spend hard earned money on the theatre, we want to enjoy our evening or afternoon, please just be considerate that’s all we ask. I know I am not the only one who wishes this. The theatre is a special place but recently it's been on a bumpy road where nearly every performance is being disturbed by an audience member who doesn't give a damn about others. Don't let that be you.

It just shouldn't be happening, I don't hold back anymore, any disruption near me during a performance, I ask the person to stop. That's what we all should be doing.

You had a bad experience because of an audience member? Share it! So people know in the future it’s not acceptable. Get the message out there!

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