Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Theatre rage and I'm all for it

Theatre rage.
It had to happen.
It could so easily have been me and not members of the audience of the Boston Pops who earned the first headlines for theatre rage. They are now all over YouTube, the people brawling in the dress circle on the glamorous opening night performance.
It was all about someone who would not stop talking and someone who really wished they would.
Talking during performance is the worst of bad manners. It goes against all the rules of theatre etiquette.
But no one knows etiquette any more. And, unforgiveably, the rules are not enforced.

Once upon a time, there was a rule that no food or drink was allowed in the auditorium. There used to be signs, reminding people of this.
The idea is that live performance is something special. It is an intimate interaction between performers and audiences. It also is work on behalf of the performers - risky work for which they need concentration. We of olde worlde theatre background have been brought up to respect this. Hence, the disappointment and annoyance we suffer when we find ourselves in audiences who seem to think that going to the theatre is not much different to watching the telly at home. They arrive late. They get up and go to the lavatory. They snack. I've seen people bring hot pizza into the theatre. They crackle crisp packets and crunch on crisps, suck loudly on candy and they glug, glug, glug on those bottles of water which they seem to think have to be attached to them at all times.

This behaviour has been driving me mad for years. My adrenalin levels rise and I want to call out "stop the show - and let's evict these noisy boors". I know the actors are distracted by these noises and movements just as other audience members are.

Theatre administrators are no help. They have let the rules lapse because they want the refreshment sales.

So, it is up to other audience members to ask for consideration.
It is an unpleasant burden to put on people - especially when they may have paid over $100 for a ticket.

As for the communications devices, the mobile phones and Blackberries...
Now we have to listen to pre-show reminders to turn them off and not use them for recording or photographing the show. This is irritating in itself. And those who think they are special, which is many people, take no notice at all. One will find them texting or holding up their phones to share their experience with someone at home...or to sneak onto YouTube or, damned if I know. But no rules apply any more.

Truly, the time has come for theatres to assert the rules of etiquette. To save the tradition that is the purity of live performance - the beauty and integrity of the experience.
The rules should be posted in the foyer, in the toilets and, maybe, even projected over the curtain before the show. They should be printed on tickets. Ushers should remind people at the door.

If the ignorant new generation of theatre-goers is allowed to continue in this trend of thinking that an auditorium is just another living room, the quality of live theatre is doomed.

I dunno, if I have to sit in theatres among slurping, sucking, crunching, texting, glugging, chatting cultural retards - then I will feel equally entitled to light up a cigarette.


the sobsister said...

Could not agree more with your eloquent cri de coeur. I tend to be somewhat inflexible regarding these matters myself and would rather people not eat at the movies either. Nothing adds to my experience of a film like the sound of a nearby family of morbidly-obese bottom-feeders snuffling and gnashing their way through a Jumbo-sized tray of those disgusting nacho cheese holocausts.

Samela said...

Oh, yes, Sobsister. The movies! Australians don't realise what lavish goodies are for sale in American cinema foyers - hot pretzels with cheese dip among them. And people are provided with lap trays to carry the vast quantities of snacks, drinks and candy they require, lest, poor things, they perish from starvation through those 90 minutes in the dark.

Fletch said...

Nothing like the bright backlit LED of a cell phone to awaken you from your moviegoing haze like a pair of highbeams heading straight for you.

Great post - and I'd love to light up in the theater as well. :)

River said...

As you probably know, movie theatres out here in Aus. already have the super size popcorn and soft drinks, so I suppose the snack trays with meal size snacks can't be too far behind. One more reason to stay home and wait for these movies to appear on TV or DVD.