Does London need to chill out about theatre etiquette?

Not a week goes by without someone, somewhere on the internet writing about bad behaviour at the theatre. There is a standard we brits like adhered to when at the theatre, no talking, no noisy eating, no translating the entire show to the person sat next to you and certainly no singing along until the mega mix at the end. And with London theatre tickets costing up to £250 each these days, we are entitled to watch a show without being irked by someone next to us in the audience. Aren’t we?

We all sit there and wonder where these people learnt their manners from. Did their parents teach them nothing about good behaviour when they go to the theatre? It’s like some of them have been raised in a barn! And if you try to ask them to be quiet or stop what they are doing, you are often met with a smirk or smile that makes you feel like you are the one being unreasonable and not them! So sometimes it feels like you can’t win.

In the two months I have been living in Paris, I’ve seen six theatre shows and started to realise that the Europeans are much more laid back than the brits. Theatre Etiquette just doesn’t seem to be an issue here. If people want to talk, they talk. If people want to check their mobile phone, they do. And no one really seems to mind. To be honest, on the whole, the French audiences don’t eat during the show (they very rarely even take a drink in with them which I find bizarre but at least I don’t have to fight to get to the bar for my bottle of pino and a straw) and are really quite well behaved. But if they want to say something to the person next to them they do and that’s fine.

So I guess my question is, do us Londoners make such a fuss about theatre etiquette in our own minds that we are constantly on the edge of our seats waiting for something bad to happen, so that we can complain about it? Should we have a more laid back approach to it all and just focus on the show we are watching and tune out the people who might be doing something else around us?

I don’t know if that is a solution. I’m not sure I could stop myself from mentally getting involved but its a question worth considering. Do we need to chillax?

West End Wilma
Photo: Johan Persson


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