The UK theatre scene is the last refuge of unnecessary etiquette

There is a heightened sense of what is and what isn't acceptable among theatre-goers

Share
Related Topics

I have often worried that my antipathy towards theatre as an art form marks me out as an irredeemable Philistine. I can recognise excellence on the stage, and I have given myself every chance to find pleasure and intellectual fulfilment in a visit to the theatre. But one's heart never lies, and my heart has, I'm afraid, never been in it.

I can't help it. As soon as the curtain rises and the actors start acting, a voice inside my head starts screaming: “STOP IT! JUST TALK NORMALLY! THIS IS EMBARASSING!” Tell me I can't be alone in thinking this. Or am I the only person in the world who finds the manners and artifice of staged drama an uncomfortable watch? From time to time, propelled by friends' recommendations or critical acclaim, I essay another excursion to the theatre in the hope that something will click and this huge gap in my artistic appreciation will be filled.

On top of all this is the feeling that, in contrast to other genres, there is a strict convention to which the audience must adhere. This is not conducive to engendering a sense of relaxation, and who goes out willingly for an evening of hard work?  Yesterday, a survey conducted by Ticketmaster into the habits of theatregoers suggested that, in the drive to encourage younger people to the theatre, established codes of behaviour have broken down, much to the chagrin of the traditionalists.

Dress has become more casual - until relatively recently, a lounge suit was the minimum required for a night in the stalls - and this sop to the modern world has offended some. The theatre critic of the Daily Telegraph yesterday conveyed his displeasure about a fellow critic turning up to a first night wearing a T-shirt: I couldn't work out, however, whether it was the T-shirt itself, or its message - “Still Hate Thatcher” - that offended him more.

Of course, in any public gathering - a train, an auditorium, even a lift - it is reasonable to expect a level of behaviour that doesn't offend others. It's just that, for some reason - perhaps the inherent seriousness of the genre - there is a heightened sense of what is and what isn't acceptable in the theatre. In the cinema, I don't think anyone notices or cares when a fellow audience member takes a sneaky look at his or her mobile phone (this is 2013, after all, and we are all so important that we can't be uncontactable for a minute). In the theatre, however, the tut-tutting is almost audible.

And heaven help someone who has forgotten to switch off their mobile. James McAvoy, Kevin Spacey, Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig are among those who have stepped out of character to berate someone in the audience whose ringtone has interrupted a performance. It's not only because I am terrified that this will happen to me that makes me resistant to the appeal of the live drama. Maybe one day I'll get with the programme, and I'll feel so comfortable at the theatre that I'll be able to sit there patiently, not look at my mobile...and fall asleep. You're right. I am a Philistine.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Hosting Support Agent

£17100 - £20900 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the North West's leading...

Recruitment Genius: Experienced Health & Safety Support Tutor

£19000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Legal Assistant

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Collections Agent

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company was established in...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A Del Tajo la Reina's bull falls during the second  

Spain's torture of bulls has hit a gruesome peak this year – and no thanks to the EU

Mimi Bekhechi
 

Daily catch-up: Julian Assange, the least funny long-running show in the West End

John Rentoul
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests