Has theatre etiquette gone out the window in a post-lockdown Britain? | Written By Lewis C. Baird

Returning to theatres after a 15-month absence from our lives has been joyous, however, there has been a noticeable restlessness within theatre auditoriums.  

During the Edinburgh Fringe and Festival, it seemed that eyes were hooked to the stage and silence ensued within audiences, engaged to finally be watching live theatre again. Since August, after the fringe, I’ve attended four productions in different theatres and I couldn’t help but sense things have changed. People chattering through pinnacle moments of a performance, getting up repeatedly during the performance in an attempt to get drinks or go to the toilet. The most common and irritating occurrence is mobile phones being used throughout a performance. Ushers and front of house staff are clearly attempting to prevent this happening, but it seems to be a losing battle. People have become so attached to a digital world that they now can’t resist using their phone, and are failing to be present in the real world. 

One of the productions I recently attended had a ticket value of £45 for my seats, and the same or even more for the seats around me, and still some people were more interested in their phone than what was unfolding on the stage. There was nothing wrong with that production, in fact it is one of the best productions touring. So, the question is why pay all that money for a ticket if you’re not going to watch the production? And on top of that, why spoil another audience member’s night/afternoon out? If you think phones aren’t an issue at the theatre then please just bear in mind, you’re literally putting on a light that can be distracting to those around you, and more importantly the performers on stage. 

There are several examples of performers making it clear why phones should not be on during a performance unless prompted to. 

Oher notable issues is the grumbling of people having to show proof of vaccinations, lateral flow test results and wearing masks. The theatre industry is still on its knees. During this time, if you’re attending a show, please listen to the announcements, staff and also the performers. Look on twitter, the theatre community are being very vocal about the implications of a COVID breakout at a theatre or in the cast/crew. Everything that is asked of us is clearly a safety measure. 

For the first time in Theatre Scotland history, we are asking for letters from you about your experiences in theatres since they re-opened (good or bad). We will feature all letters in a follow up article. 

Feel free to send emails to contact@theatrescotland.co.uk