I see a lot of theatre.
It’s hugely part of my job to do so. I also really fucking enjoy it…even the shit ones. So, I’m familiar with the set up.
Arrive at theatre.
Hang around the foyer.
Dick about on your phone.
Get a drink.
“The House is now open. Please make your way into the auditorium.”
Go find your seat.
Regret not going to the toilet beforehand.
See the lights go down and try not to think about needing the loo for the next hour.
Enjoy the show.
See the lights come up and run for where you think the loo might be.
Use the loo.
Come out of the institute, thinking about the show and go home.
Alternatively you can hang around and chat with people there…but you get the gist.
Now, theatre is a form of story telling, right? So as you would do when you listen to someone’s story, you do the following things:
Engage with the story (positively and negatively)
Don’t use your phone
Same thing really for shows isn’t it?
I bring this up because honestly, I’m fucking sick and tired of people fucking cranking their necks and tapping me on the shoulders in an attempt to show their frustration with me. I’m distracting you from the show, by how?
Am I kicking your chair?
Have I put my feet up on the chair and trod on your hair?
Have I spilt my drink down you?
Did I take photos of the production with the flash on?
Did my phone ring during a really intense bit in the show?
Am I talking with my friend throughout the show?
(All of these has happened to me and it has irritated me.)
No…I’ve been laughing. Real talk.
For those who don’t know me well or have never made me laugh (it’s really not hard to) I have a distinct laugh. That’s not me being precious – I really do. I don’t have an audio clip to link so you’ll have to use your imagination as well as the next description to help you:
And you know what, there was a time when I was really fucking conscious of it and almost stifled it. A fucking laugh I know, get a grip. I was literally questioning my humour, was it not OK to laugh at the death of a character, or how “serious” a show tried to be when in reality it was just all a joke, or when someone did something by accident on stage, a one liner, a dance move etc etc etc ETC.
With so many different types of spectatorship events to go to now, I think it’s immensely difficult to maintain this theatre etiquette bullshit that we’ve become conditioned to.
Performances like Search Party’s My Son & Heir invites the audience into a promenade setting and there’s an engagement with audience members, offering sweets and beer. Igor and Moreno’s Idiot Syncrasy offers shots of whiskey (?) for audiences to pour for everyone else. Eric Davis’ Red Bastard actively singles out audience members threatening them with wet willies if they’re the last one to sit down after insisting everyone swaps seats. (As much as it’ll be wanky of me to quote him – it’s a good one, I promise.) I mean, Jamal Harewood literally gives up his agency as a performer for the audience to take total ownership of The Privileged.
These pieces (and so many more) offer an alternative for “theatre norm” and with that, comes the exciting invitation for audiences to release themselves from passivity and become alive and active…in a live actioned event that is happening around them. WHY WOULDN’T YOU WANT TO BE ACTIVELY INVOLVED IN A THEATRE PIECE?
So it frustrates me that some people are still conditioned to the “Audience shall be seen and not heard” notion AND THEN not only apply it to themselves but try to apply it to others.
Then there’s this brilliant inclusion rule that is cropping up in more and more performances. This thing called, Relaxed Performances. It’s basically, a formal reminder for audience members that…anything goes. If you want to wriggle, be vocal etc – you have the freedom to do so. It is a fantastic step forward into making more performances accessible.
But I can’t help but feel that it’s so bizarre that we now have a note for audience members allowing them freedom to act how they need to in order to enjoy a performance. That’s basic instinct, right?
What I’m trying to take forward for future events where I am a spectator, is to embrace that I am laughing and to remember that people who are bothered by it, are really unfortunate. They unfortunately, can’t see things from my perspective…and my perspective (at that time) is the one that’s positive.
So fuck off if you’re thinking about tapping me on the shoulders to then press your finger against your lips as if I’m 12 years old again.