It was a nice weekend…
I travelled up north to spend some time with my family – both my mother and I have birthdays in a few weeks so we had a joint celebration without our boyfriends and husband in tow.
As is the case whenever I go up to Manchester, it was cold, dark and rained solidly for the entirety of my visit, but that didn’t stop us from getting dressed up. Unfortunately, gridlocked traffic and the return of the Frankfurt market meant that we were extremely late getting to the restaurant, making my sister look like she had been stood up on a date, bless her, but we soon settled into the usual banter that often takes up the majority of our conversations.
As a treat for my mum, we went to see Guys and Dolls at the Palace Theatre after the meal. It’s her favourite musical and I know she had been very much looking forward to it. In getting to our seats we discovered that we had very little room and were completely squished like sardines, but it was a nice atmosphere and the set looked incredible.
It turned out to be an eventful few hours…
I always have a little smile to myself when I think about the unwritten rules of theatre and classical concert etiquette – people get dressed up, sit in silence in their seats (unless it’s the Rocky Horror Show), and then clap and give the occasional cheer at certain points. However, this audience proved to be unaware of these rules…
To be fair, the show was quite slow at the beginning and it took a little while to get into it. There wasn’t an issue with the quality of the acting (from some well known actors I might add), and the singing was pleasant, if a bit pitchy at times, but it was lacking that… something.
It turned out that other members of the audience must have agreed with what I was thinking, and about twenty minutes into the show a clearly irate woman stood up a few rows behind us, screamed “don’t give up your day job!” and made a huge fuss of walking out. I then noticed more people leaving as the first half went on.
After the interval had finished and everybody returned to their seats, I looked round to find that about a third of the audience in the area where we were sitting had not bothered to come back for the second half. Consequently, we moved ourselves along so we would have a bit more room, and others did the same.
The second half was much better than the first, and the actor who played Skye Masterson, Jamie Parker, was absolutely incredible… However, that didn’t stop people from constantly getting up to go to the toilet (one woman went four times) and a seemingly drunken man quickly rushed out half way through the second half, falling up the stairs in an attempt to do so. There were people openly talking and had to be repeatedly shushed by angry members of the audience around them. Two women in front of us were constantly rustling sweet wrappers and having a chat, which clearly irritated the people in front of them.
It was some of the worst audience behaviour I had ever seen, and I was disappointed that it happened in Manchester, my home city. While I’m proud that northerners are known for speaking their mind, on Saturday night they presented themselves as just being rude and obnoxious.
I just hope the cast didn’t notice!
What about you guys? Have you ever had to deal with bad audience behaviour?
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The actors will have noticed, you can be sure of that! What an appalling bunch of people. Ok, we know audiences were much more unruly in Shakespeare’s time and onwards but really they should know better these days. I’ve had to deal with noisy audiences on the other side of the curtain and it’s not easy to carry on as if nothing has happened but you have to do it. My worst experience was actually when a fellow actor came out of character in a fringe production and shouted at a member of the audience to get out. The poor man turned out to have Tourette’s. An actor should be able to withstand whatever occurs, rather than let something throw his or her concentration. How sad to have had that experience. Guys and Dolls is a tremendous show.
You can be sure the cast noticed. When you’re on stage, it’s a two-way exchange. The actors can feel the energy of the audience, and it can affect their performance. Recently, I saw a play. Afterwards. the author and the cast assembled on stage for a talk with the audience . We had been a very fine group, and the actors thanked us for our positive, supportive energy, saying that it had enhanced their performance. The unwritten rule that one dresses up for the theater seems to be waning. I always do because I come from a show business family in New York, and one always showed respect for the actors by wearing one’s “good” clothes. Now,in California, I see people go in shorts or jeans and sweat shirts. They mean no disrespect. They simply don’t know better.
Too many people have dropped, if they ever had, acceptable social boundaries. My husband and I gave up going to the movie theaters, something we used to love, because we grew so tired of teenagers jumping over the seats, talking, texting, and apparently phone-filming the film that was on the screen. There are no longer any adults working at the movie theaters. Management has given it over to teenagers who sell tickets, sell snacks, clean up the mess, and try to maintain order among unruly patrons they’re not prepared to deal with. Now we wait till the films are available on DVD and get them in our house, but it isn’t the same experience.
Worse, however, was the last time we attended our granddaughter’s ballet recital. One parent repeatedly called out his daughter’s name, yelling completely inappropriate remarks about “shaking it” and “doing her thing,” etc. He whistled and hooted over the music, calling attention to himself more than to the dancers. Between performances, the dance teacher asked for the audience to be respectful but this one parent didn’t care. I felt like yelling at him that this wasn’t a wrestling event, but it would have reduced me to his level. These were darling little kids dancing their hearts out in tiny tutus and here was this selfish parent who ruined it for everyone.
Throw him to the lions – then let him cheer.
This makes me sad. I have been both on stage, back stage & in the audience for more than 20 years and I’ve thankfully never experienced anything like this. I’m glad you stuck it out!
No. The worst I’ve ever heard at a theatre is someone’s cell phone ringing. I feel sorry for the actors 😦
I think I’ve seen one before. Awkward.
Hilarious! One of my worst experiences, in London, was an American sitting next to me, who was wearing shorts and trainers! Way to dress up for the theatre… Point is, after a while he took off the trainers, and OMG, the stink! That spoilt the performance, I can tell you, and I was too well-brought up, PC, or polite, to give him a piece off my mind
I went to see Jersey Boys in the summer and a woman near us was singing, badly. Fortunately the amplification was so powerful that she could hardly be heard. When I went to Top Hat a couple of years ago an obviously drunk woman in front of us kept shouting things. She was very loud.
It’s because of behaviour like this that I’m not looking forward to going to the cinema for the new Star Wars film.
There is always something pleasant to be found (like the second half). The worst was when we went to a concert and everyone kept singing so loud that be could not hear the performer! We decided to make the best of it and actually enjoyed singing at the top of our lungs.
We would not have the heart to be that rude. The actors always give it their all no matter how it turns out.
At least you spent it with family.
I’ve just cancelled my plans to go to Manchester to see some shows!
I’ve only ever had to deal with one lady who should have actually had 2 seats! Need I say more? Oh yeah and she smelled of bed sore cream yuck!
Oh yes. When I went to see Wicked (an evening performance), half the audience looked as though they’d just got up from the sofa and decided to come out to the theater, and there were several instances of people calling out or talking loudly during the performance. When I went to see Ghost, a woman was sobbing so loudly and desperately during the end scene that a lot of the audience started laughing (to be fair, it wasn’t really their fault as it was funny) – I was amazed the actors could carry on with a straight face. Also, mobile phones being held up, the bane of my existence at theater and music shows – just watch the damn show, don’t try and capture it for Youtube! Ahem. Anyway, I believe that people don’t really know about theater etiquette any more, for the most part. The story about the the guy getting onstage to plug in his phone charger during a play really brought that home to me. I mean, how could anyone think that was appropriate behaviour? Right, rant over 😀
Please don’t tell me that actually happened!!! Really?!!!
Oh yes, it really did. It was on the news recently. The guy got up onstage and plugged his phone charger into what he thought was an outlet, but it was part of the scenery. And they had to make an announcement in the theater about not getting on the stage! Then, when everyone went crazy about it in the media, including some of the actors in the play, he issued an half-assed apology about how ‘he’d never been to a play before and didn’t realise.’ I mean, how ridiculous is that!
This is one of the reasons I rarely go to the theater any more. Manners are missing in many places. If a performance isn’t good, either leave quietly or sit through and don’t bother others who, despite its awfulness, may still be enjoying the performance! Sheesh.
I’m sorry to hear that a production of Guys and Dolls wasn’t good, too! I love the music in that show.
It sounds like people think “Well it’s hardly the opera or a ballet, it’s only a bloody musical.” and then treat it as if they are watching the telly! Having mainly only been to the theatre to see The Rocky Horror Show many times and one ballet and one opera, I hadn’t realised how obnoxious audiences have become :o(