Monday, 15 March 2010

Theatre Etiquette

Look its me! And my awesome friend Phil

Or at least I think that's how you spell etiquette; the interwebs doesn't seem to know either. So why is this my topic of the day? Well it may have something to do with that I'm sleep deprived, grumpy and suffering from post show blues. Or it might be to do with what happened on Friday.

The finale of Batboy- my first show

For those very few of you who read my blog but aren't part of my daily life I feel the need to fill you with what's been happening for the last couple of months (and my excuse for not posting regularly!). I've just finished a week of performances in Hair for Imperial MTSoc-it was amazing! I've never felt that sort of intense, trippy atmosphere in any musical I've been in. It was hard work but so worth it especially for me as I planted the seed of doing Hair over a year ago so I feel like things have come full circle not just with doing the show but within my musical theatre life at Imperial. My first show here was Batboy, I was 18, young, didn't really know what I was doing, somehow had a lead and developed an amazing support group around me. And here I was three years later having that same support group watching me out there on my own doing my thing and wanting to make them proud. I hope, no, think I succeeded. I don't usually make a point of making blatant, slushy acknowledgments but I did spend some of Saturday's show thinking how much I've grown as a person and an actor and there are three people who I really do owe a lot of it to (despite seeing them not often enough!).

I finally saw Alex for the first time in years on Saturday. Alex played my Mum in Batboy and we did get close. She was this amazingly glamorous belter with a string of amazing performances behind her. When I got ill during show week she was the one to make sure I was able to continue and look after me in this big scary world of theatre. I haven't seen her much since as she goes onto bigger and better things; now at the Royal Academy of Music. But the moment I saw her in the front row on Hair I just felt I had to make her proud and it was so nice to see her afterwards and just show her how much I've grown as a person.

I still see Seb as my pseudo-father despite his leaving Imperial to do his own environmentally thang. Seb came from the same sort of background as me; hadn't done much theatre before Imperial but had spent much of his time whilst there invested in the society and enjoying both the onstage and offstage fun. Despite going through a rough patch after last year's "A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum", Seb has always been the person I turn to for advice or just generally to moan at. He's been through the same sort of things as I have and is kind of like that big brother I never had. Seb and Alex always believed in me and I hope in some way that my performance in Hair showed them that their belief was well worth it.

And finally Dale, my original Gay Best Friend (although I don't think he really likes that title). Dale was my director in Batboy and general instigator of drunken fun (mainly consisting of my mentioning of Jason Robert Brown and him going absolutely crazy). I love Dale to pieces, he's one of those people who even after just seeing them you already miss them. He understands my obsession with theatre and we can share (and angrily debate) all things show-based. I always feel that he generally wants to see me and chat and is genuinely interested in what I have to say.

To all three of you, I love you all and we really should have some sort of self-indulgent Batboy reunion. Rob can come too.
Ok, I wasn't expecting all that gushing to come out just then but it did, and I'm glad. And so back to our topic- theatre etiquette

Alex, Seb and Dale weren't the only people to see Hair this week; after much nagging, members of my lab turned up on Friday. In some ways I wish they hadn't. Most of them were well behaved and really enjoyed the show but a few decided to get wasted beforehand and things got a little messy. Literally. The first I knew of Friday's antics was when the director came up to me at the interval and asked if the group at the back were my friends. I replied that they were probably my lab group and what had they done? I had already heard a overly loud amount of cheering after my song but put this down to them trying to make me feel happier. What I didn't know is they had to be told to be quiet by the director after talking through much of the act and that one of them had vomited over the back row. Nice.
The cast of Hair. Not vomitting.

I was mortified by their behaviour and, although they have apologised, I feel that people need to learn to have a bit of respect for the arts. What you do in a rugby match and what you do at a play are completely different things (although I think if I vomited over your pitch you wouldn't be too happy with me). I spend quite a lot of time on the boards at although I post very little, and the subject of audience behaviour comes up fairly often. The standards of theatre behaviour really have gone down since I say my first show at the age of 5. Then, the theatre was still something exciting, for the elite, for the cultured. Now it is starting to become a tourist trap and little else. Lets take the old school rules of theatre and show you how they should be followed now shall we?
  • What to wear.
The incomparable Rob Felstead as Claude. This is the sad bit!

When I was a kid going to theatre meant going with mum to BHS to buy an entire new outfit because I wanted to show to Shane Richie and Sonia how trendy I was. Ok, this was my first show Grease and I seemed to think that the stars of the show would see me. I'm still that way though, unlike the theatre where you go in when it is dark and leave when it is dark you can actually see everyone around you for prolonged periods of time. I still see the theatre as something special and, just like when I got to a nice restaurant, I want to show those working at the theatre that I do appreciate where I am and the theatre isn't just somewhere to go after a few drinks. Fair enough, I'm not going to go in a full out ballgown like our contemporaries in the the earlier half of last century would. But I'm not going to turn up in what is effectively a long t-shirt (I kid you not, a girl wore that exact outfit to The 39 Steps- not even a pair of tights underneath!). If I am to go to the theatre, even on a comp seat, I'll dress to suit the show. For something a bit more contemporary, like Rent Remixed I'd go for a nice denim skirt/shirt combo. If its a grand show in a grand theatre, maybe a cute little dress. But I don't think I've worn jeans to a theatre, it just doesn't seem right. So, fair enough, Hair was a student show and thus what you wear doesn't particularly affect me but I would prefer if you didn't have that 'just out of the lab and I can't be arsed' look about you.
  • What to say
Frankly I don't care what you say before the show or during the interval. Although certain things do annoy me like talking about how much you are obsessed with this show and then getting really simple facts about it wrong. Trust me, I probably know more. I also don't appreciate people who won't take me seriously as a critic because I look like a 16 year old- I know a lot more than you think and probably more than your other critics. During the show you really shouldn't speak at all. It's a well known fact. In the olden days people appreciated the theatre as an artform and came to see a play, not sing/speak along with it. I don't mind the odd remark, I'm guilty of that but running commentaries are most definitely out. Especially if you are one of those people listed above. What is especially rude is if you aren't even talking about the show and are instead going about your everyday conversation as if you were in a cafe. The amazing thing is that we can hear everything as we are the well behaved people who keep quiet.
  • What you do
Our future choreographer James going slightly mental

This is the big one as it covers many a sin. Firstly mobiles and blackberries. I hate this enough when I'm in the cinema but at the theatre is just taking the piss. Fair enough I can't turn my phone off as it has some sort of strange problem where when I turn it back on it vibrates like mad and won't stop playing Defying Gravity. So I put it on silent and shove it far into my bag. And check it before the show. And check it at the interview. Not for messages but just to make sure its on silent.

Food. Yes I can be a cheapskate and sneak in my own food from time to time but I'll only eat it surreptitiously during the interval. If I'm not feeling to well I may extend this to having a mint to settle my stomach during the show. But why would you feel the need to start eating crisps and sweets during a show? You only have to wait just over an hour until the interval surely you can manage til then? (Unless you're a diabetic where it is perfectly fine and you are probably used to eating very quietly and understand how disruptive it could be)

Drinking. I know that some theatres will let you take your drinks into the auditorium but please don't leave it in the way for us all to trip over. The other peril is that you have to much drink and turn into my lab group. THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE THEATRE BEHAVIOUR. Amazingly we have also paid money to see the show and don't want to feel like we're back in the student union. I've seen many shows I don't like and instead of passing them by getting rat-assed I use my time constructively and critique the show in readiness for a post on this dear blog. You wouldn't get so drunk that you couldn't concentrate at a cinema, so why at a theatre when even the people in the story can see you? Especially when you pay so much money to go to the theatre, it's just a waste of a ticket that someone who longs to go but can't afford to could have used.

Yeah, it's me again

I'm not trying to be a killjoy but you wouldn't behave like this in an art gallery or a museum so why do we take such liberties with another artform? It is fine to enjoy the theatre and indulge in what you are seeing but it's when someone who obviously doesn't want to be there decides to ruin it for the rest of use that I get a bit pissed.
Rant over. Oh, and as there aren't many pictures you can use to illustrate theatre etiquette, I've peppered this piece with pics from our production of Hair (because I can) and maybe one from Batboy. Kudos to

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Luce - quite right too and a good rant helps to get it off your chest. I also noted a group in the audience who waved (yes waved!!) at one or more of the Hair actors, which reminded me of infants at their first play (usually the Nativity) waving to their parents whilst on stage and their parents waving back. I know theatre tries, at times, to get away from the traditional and getting members of the audience to participate is one of them and it is a bit more social and participative than an art gallery, but getting tanked up beforehand and talking throughout suggests that the Lab group (if it was them) had never been to the theatre before, were very nervous about it and therefore headed for the comforting arms of Mother Alcohol to help them through it ("comforting arms of Mother Alcohol" - Hell's teeth what a phrase - God, I'm good!!)

Or am I being too generous?


PS what do I select as a profile??