Yet another blog about theatre etiquette
As I sit down this morning, with a cup of tea, ready to start the day, I should be reflecting on last night’s glorious press night for Gary Barlow’s new musical THE GIRLS. Sadly, I have other things, more pressing on my mind that I need to get off of my chest (Theatre Etiquette and the two girls who’s lack of understanding about how they should behave and the theatre’s inability to do their job properly ruined by experience).
As with most people in the theatre industry, the topic of Theatre Etiquette comes up quite often. But my gripe today is not actually with the misbehaving audience members it is with the Theatre Ushers. Now I know a lot of Ushers who do a great job but my experience last night of a new musical was ruined by one Usher in particular.
From the moment the lights went down on opening night of this new British musical, two girls sat directly next to me were on their phones. They’d managed to get a photo with Gary Barlow and were busy cropping, filtering and uploading their images to all the different social media accounts they had. But it didn’t stop there. They both continued to use their phone for the ENTIRE performance, replying to comments on their photo uploads. I tried to forget about it and focus on the show but the light was so bright I really couldn’t focus. I spent the entire first half of the show staring at the Usher who was totally oblivious to what was going on. I thought she would surely glance around the room at some point to check everything was in order but no, she chose to watch the show instead of doing her job.
Eventually I had enough and went over to her and asked if I could have a word outside with her. I explained that I know Ushers have a difficult job and cant notice everything that is going on but that it was impossible that she would not have seen these girls, had she chosen to look around now and again. I said that I’m sure she was doing her best but now, on reflection, I take that back. She wasn’t doing her job AT ALL and because of it my experience of the show was ruined.
I know this may be an unpopular opinion but in this modern day world of social media, if we want to maintain the theatre as a place where you can escape from the world for a couple of hours and be transported into another world, then theatre staff need to be vigilant at all times during a show. People use their phones more and more and if no one is going to stop them then they will think it is acceptable behaviour. It isn’t. The girls using their phones weren’t trying to hide the fact, they obviously weren’t regular theatre-goers and didn’t understand theatre etiquette and that they should be watching the show. They really didn’t care about it, they were just there to see Gary Barlow.
So to all the lovely theatre staff who help make our experience at shows a pleasant one, I thank you and applaud the wonderful work you do. But to theatre managers, I ask you to assess your training of staff around theatre etiquette and encourage Ushers to spend less time watching the show and more time looking around the audience which (I believe) is their job.
My experience of THE GIRLS was sadly tainted by different girls to the ones who should be on my mind today.