people on phones in the theatre
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The worst behaviour we have witnessed at the theatre

A few weeks ago there was somewhat of a media storm in the theatre world over Rihanna having been texting in the middle of a Broadway performance. While many were outraged, the first thing I thought when I saw this was that I’ve witnessed far worse.

There are many experiences I could reference, but I have to say that a particular stand-out was when I went to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. We’d had the tickets for over a year and paid a small fortune for them. Unfortunately, despite my excitement leading up to the show, all I remember about it now is it being spoiled by a woman who was far too drunk. Before we even got to the interval she must have been out to go to the toilet at least six times, despite clear instructions that anyone who went out during the performance would not be allowed back in until the interval. She then proceeded to take out her phone and start taking photos during the performance, throwing somewhat of a temper tantrum when an usher threatened to kick her out.

I think what’s sad about this sort of behaviour is that it completely takes away from the performance. Thankfully we were far enough back that this woman’s behaviour couldn’t have been a distraction to the actors, but it was still a distraction to me and I imagine most of the people sitting in the upper circle. For obvious reasons, it’s immensely frustrating when you spend a lot of money on tickets, and are looking forward to seeing a show for over a year, only to then have your memories tainted by an overly intoxicated audience member. – Jasmine Parker

The worst audience behaviour I have ever witnessed was at Titanic at the Birmingham Hippodrome a couple of years ago. The Titanic musical is not in any way inspired by the blockbuster movie, and sheer confusion is the only possible excuse I could come up with for why so many people might have been behaving so appallingly.

I heard about six phones ring throughout the course of the show

Despite large signs declaring that mobile phones should be switched off, and that photography was completely prohibited, within the first five minutes I had seen at least two people taking photos of the stage. Further to this, I heard about six phones ring throughout the course of the show, their owners not even having bothered to put them on silent. To make matters worse, I had the misfortune of being seated in front of a party who had clearly come to see one cast member in particular, and proceeded to provide ‘humorous’ commentary throughout every scene in which this cast member did not appear. I remind you that this is a show about the sinking of the Titanic, one of the most high-profile maritime disasters of all time – there isn’t much to laugh about.

To top it all off, in the final scene of the show, multiple people got up to leave. I understand, to some degree, people leaving during the curtain call for trains or coaches, but to leave when the show was still underway seemed altogether odd, seeing as the running time is available online in advance of the performance. I found it difficult to accept that these people had paid to sit and watch the show, but could not even wait to see the last few minutes. At best they were wasting their own money, but at worst they were being disrespectful to their fellow audience members and the performers themselves. – Isabel Alexander 

The theatre is a place where respect for those performing is an unspoken rule. You enter with an expectation that everybody attending will have the same level of consideration for both those on stage and those in the audience. Yet, on multiple occasions, my trip to the theatre has been ruined by the bad behaviour of other audience members. 

We are so reliant on modern technology that we cannot appreciate what is in front of us

Theatre etiquette is something we would all like to believe stills exists. However, I am afraid it has become a thing of the past. On numerous occasions other attendees have seemingly lost all their manners by engaging in varying volumes of conversation during the performance. 

From muffled chit-chat, to loud life stories being shared, I have experienced it all. Not only is this disruptive to other theatre-goers, who have paid to watch the performance rather than to hear the intricacies of a stranger’s life, it primarily is disrespectful to those on stage, who have dedicated time and energy to the show, only to have it simply disregarded by those who feel that their own conversations are of greater importance.

If the conversationalists were not bad enough, then comes those who choose to use their mobile phones during a performance. Whilst texting during a show is mildly annoying, taking a phone call is a completely different level of rudeness. It is sad to think that we are becoming so reliant on modern technology that we cannot leave it behind to appreciate what is going on in front of us, even if only for a few hours. – Emma Carrington

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