What to Do If Your Phone Rings in the Theatre

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Will Longman

It’s something that’s unlikely to divide opinion amongst the theatre community: do not use your smartphone during a performance. Seems simple enough, but how you stop your mobile friend from lighting up is open to interpretation: flick it onto silent, leave on vibrate, place into airplane mode, or turn it off, remove the battery and leave it in a locked box a minimum of 5 miles away from the theatre?  

If you’re a conscious human being, you’ll take action to ensure you won’t disturb, disrupt or distract when you’re in the theatre. But look, it happens. Like leaving the stove on or forgetting to lock the car, sometimes our brains fail us, and a momentary lapse could leave you red-faced.

Of course, some people out there decide a dark theatre is a perfect time to send a text: there have been two separate instances of ‘altercations’ during performances where one theatregoer has asked a fellow patron to stop using their phone (musical legend Patti LuPone has even confiscated phones from audience members mid-performance). Those who insist, probably can’t be saved, but here are a few tips on how to make sure you aren’t unwittingly caught out.

  • Take precautions

When you take your seat, make sure you take two seconds to check your devices. It takes no time at all and could save you from an evening of embarrassment. Ideally, power down. You’re not going to use your device during the show, so there’s no need really to have it switched on. You can fire up at the interval and send that important late-night work email if you have to, but complete shutdown is your safest bet.

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