Theatre Etiquette #Lesson 2 – you are not exempt from the request to ‘turn off your mobile phone’

I recently asked online for your top gripes when it comes to theatre etiquette – what can you really not tolerate happening around you when you are trying to watch a show that you have paid good money for a ticket to see?

The top three bug-bears that came up time and time again were mobile phone use, people eating and talking.

So over the next few weeks, I will be taking each of these topics and giving my opinion on whether or not we should be cracking down on our tolerance of these annoyances at the theatre.

Other grievances that came up in the poll were drunk people, late arrivals, filming and fidgeting in seats. Plus lovers canoodling, unnecessary standing ovations and big hair!

Last week we covered ‘What Is Theatre Etiquette‘ and so this week we will start with the biggest issue people had about behaviour when at the theatre – mobile phone use!

Turn off your mobile phone

It’s the most obvious one really isn’t it? At most shows there is an announcement made before the show begins, telling people to turn off their phones and not to use them during, because it is distracting to a) the audience and b) people on stage. Yet every-time I go to the theatre, without fail, people think they are exempt from this rule and sit there scrolling through Facebook, replying to texts or just checking the time.

People know they aren’t supposed to do this because they often try to shield the light but *spoiler alert* EVERYONE CAN SEE WHAT YOU ARE DOING.

Turning your phone off does not just mean to ‘put it on silent mode’ either. Because auditoriums are so quiet, we can still hear your phone buzzing on silent mode. Of course, it’s better than those who don’t even turn the sound off and cause the entire theatre to erupt into a room of noise during (often) the quietest part of the show.

On Broadway, some theatres give everyone a slip of paper when they enter the auditorium which clearly states mobile phones are not to be used during the performance. And God forbid you do or they will run down the isle like a whippet and shine their torch in your face. I wonder why London theatres don’t implement stronger strategies like these? The tactics used in London theatres obviously aren’t working and so maybe it’s time to get creative about how and what is done.

Musicians like Madonna are adopting new tactics where audience members are made to lock their mobile phones into locked bags which cut signal when they enter the theatre, so that there is no opportunity for the performance to be disturbed. These bags can be unlocked in the foyer during the show if needed. Is that the next step for theatre do you think?

Do you find mobile use in theatres an issue? Or do you think people need to chill out about it and accept we are living in the digital age? What do you think is the answer to this problem?

Check back next week for where I will talk about the annoyance of eating during theatre performances!