Bad behaviour at the theatre, or just the way of the world today?

When you go to see a show that appeals to children, you expect to have to grin and bear the talking and kicking the back of your chair occasionally. But what you don’t expect to have to deal with is being surrounded by adults who don’t know how to behave at the theatre.

What is the correct way to behave these days? I think the majority of us would like to believe that people still dress nicely, get to their seats before the performance begins, remove all outer clothing and sit back in their seat and quietly prepare to watch the performance. However, I think we are becoming outnumbered. At last night’s performance of Matilda, a woman arrived 20 minute after the show has started. She got to her seat (eventually), which was in front of mine and proceeded to explain to her family why she was so late and the problems she had been having at work that day. She then removed each layer of clothing and tied her hair up in a bun on the top of her head. Why do so many women think this is acceptable? Do they really have no comprehension that the person sitting behind them may have their view obstructed by a massive pineapple on top of the head in front of them? Especially when the up-do is rushed and not properly contain in the bun. I felt like I was watching the show through the back of a hedge!

Sweets are another huge annoyance when watching a show at the theatre and was something I had prepared myself for emotionally last night because I knew Matilda would involve a young audience who would probably be appeased by their parents by giving them a bag of sweets to keep them entertained during the show. However, it was the man sat next to me who caused the most annoyance! As the parent, it appeared he was the one in charge of handing out the sweets to the children which meant every ten minutes there were whispers of “does anyone want a sweet” followed by the rustle, rustle, rustle of the sweet pack for each individual child. When the man wasn’t on sweet duty he was thoroughly enjoy the show, loudly saying the word ‘brilliant’ every time something good happened on stage. Yes, Matilda is a brilliant show, but there is no need to tell everyone sitting around you every time something good happens. Chances are, we noticed it too.

Now, mobile phones. Modern technology that we can’t live without. Not even for an hour it seems while at the theatre. Maybe it’s just a sign of the times but more and more the bright lights of Apple and Samsung are lighting up our lives during theatre performances. Last night, the lady in front of me got a text message. She knew this because her phone was not switched off as it should have been and loudly notified her that something more exciting than the children on stage was potentially happening and so she had to take her handbag from in front of her seat, place it on her lap and spend two minute rummaging around for her phone in her bag. Then, once she had located the device, she was in no hurry to put it away again. Reading and replying to the text, hilariously explaining that she was in the theatre and couldn’t talk right now. She then proceeded to check her Facebook just in case anything exciting was happening there! Eventually, an Usher did come over and tell her to turn it off which was great, although could have been done a lot sooner.

So is it bad behaviour at the theatre, or just the way of the world today? These people who behave unacceptably don’t seem to have any concept that what they are doing is wrong and so maybe us old fuddy-duddies need to just accept that theatre isn’t what it used to be and we can no longer shut the outside world off for a couple of hours to enjoy a piece of art. have started a website asking people to sign up and pledge to end bad behaviour in theatre. Take a look and see if you agree.