Should Theatres Ban Eating & Drinking?

Lucy Moore

Imelda Staunton made a statement suggesting a ban on food and drink in theatres, also stating “I don’t know why people can’t engage in just one thing. I don’t understand this obsession with having to eat or drink something at every moment of the day.” 

Staunton made this statement in response to Richard Jordan complaining of a group of audience members eating McDonald’s Chicken Nuggets during a performance of "Doctor Faustus", calling it "possibly the worst West End audience I have ever encountered". Jordan also claimed that the group were talking and taking pictures throughout the performance. 

Actor John Partridge agrees with Staunton. He claimed that during his time playing Zach in “A Chorus Line”, a role which involves sitting in the audience, “a guy two seats from me, goes into his bag pulls out this kind of bucket of Chinese-style chicken wings. It's not only the noise, they stink.”

So Staunton calls for a ban on eating and drinking in the theatre, and I am inclined to agree, to some extent. There is nothing worse than the curtain coming up and the row in front of you opening a bag of crisps. It certainly distracts me from the play I should be watching, and it takes me out of the experience. I used to be of the experience that a quiet food is acceptable, but after hearing Staunton’s stance on things, I am of the same mind.

Why can’t an audience sit for a few hours and just enjoy the piece of art being presented to them, without feeling the need to eat something? If an audience member really can’t sit through a full show without eating anything, they should at least be able to hold out until the interval, when there is no risk of distracting anyone from the show. 

However, I still think that drinks should be allowed in the theatre. Auditoriums have a tendency to get quite warm and I, personally, get quite thirsty as a result. I wouldn’t want to feel uncomfortable and have that ruin the show for me as well, although I do think that drinks should be limited to water, or at least non-alcoholic beverages. That’s not to say alcohol shouldn’t be served at the bars, but audience members should be encouraged to finish their drinks before the performance begins.  A trip to the theatre isn’t a night out to get drunk, and audience members shouldn’t do that. 

But this is just my opinion, what are your thoughts on the matter? Should food and drink be banned in theatres, or do you think that a snack and a drink adds to the experience? Let us know!

Photo: Michael Callahan sells drinks and snacks to theater patrons in the Winter Garden Theatre before a performance of ‘School of Rock.’ PHOTO: AGATON STROM FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL