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Theatre Etiquette

Sadly, I have noticed over the last few decades that standards are dropping in our theatres. This has nothing to do with the theatres themselves or the actors but because of us, the paying public. At one time, to go to the theatre was a special occasion which we enjoyed with our loved ones, as we enjoyed talented actors acting out wonderful plays and singing hits to us from our favourite musicals. Our behaviour towards these talented people, wonderful buildings and other paying guests has changed and is something we need to improve on. 

Before we go any further, why do we enjoy visiting the theatre? The Theatre is a collaborative form of fine art that uses live performers also known as actors to present the experience of a real or imagined event in front of a live audience in a dedicated place, normally a stage. The performers may communicate this experience to the audience through combinations of gesture, speech, song, music and dance. Painted scenery and lighting is used to enhance the performance.

The word "theatre" is derived from the Ancient Greek θέατρον théatron, meaning "a place for viewing". Modern Western theatre originated in ancient Greek drama. In the UK, one of our most famous playwrights is of course William Shakespeare, who once said "All the world’s a stage", I personally agree with this saying.

Up until recent times, visiting the theatre was an occasion to dress up. In fact, in the 19th and 20th century, white tie dress was the correct attire but over the last few decades this dress code has become something of the past. However we have now gone to an all time low! When visiting the theatre recently I was convinced I saw someone wearing what to me looked like pyjamas! Need I say that when going to the theatre, we must make an effort as the wonderful performers make for us!

You will notice that not only are the performers giving us their all but so too are all the staff in the theatre who dress impeccably. So, rather than wear something that is appropriate to visit the local shopping mall, can I suggest the following. For Gentlemen, I would suggest a pair of chinos with a tailored shirt and blazer with an optional tie. Ladies, I would suggest cocktail dress/evening dress. Please remember that footwear should always be worn. A friend recently saw a lady in the theatre with bare feet, not very lady like or appropriate.

When it comes to food and drink, this should only be consumed during the intervals and never during the performance, your fellow theatre goers do not wish to be given a solo performance of your bag of crisps or sweets. The performers do not wish to compete with you during the opening number of Chicago either. Most theatres have a bar to enjoy a drink and nibble during the interval and this is something I highly recommend. 

Ladies and gentlemen, I am sure I do not need to mention this but hats should be removed as is the same with sunglasses. When other audience guests arrive and need to get to their seats, make sure this is an easy process for them, by standing and keeping the aisle free of any deadly hazards. The arm rests should be offered to the Lady first. Gentlemen, if two men are required to share then the most senior may use the back piece and junior gets the front. 

When clapping, take the lead from fellow theatre goers, never be the one left clapping in a silent theatre as your family and friends will quickly disown you and quite rightly too. Refrain from wolf whistling as you are not calling your dog! Never talk loudly during a performance. When leaving, do this in an ordinary fashion making sure you offer ladies and the elderly and disabled priority. 

Mobile phone and similar devices should be turned off! Not on silent but off! You can if course check them during the interval but leave the premises to make or receive any calls. 

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