As Imelda Staunton calls for sweets to be banned in auditoriums, Nick Ahad sets down his own set of rules for audience members.
The Five Rules of Going to the Theatre as set down by Nick Ahad. Worth setting down as we head towards panto season.
1. Don’t talk while the people on stage are talking. Or when they’re on stage at all. Sometimes they might be on stage and not talking. You might be witnessing a dramatic pause.
(1.1: If you’re choking or there is a medical emergency, fair enough, talk. Shout, scream if you need to. But if you’re breathing okay and there’s no pain in your left arm or chest, shut up.)
2: Turn your phone off. Leave your phone off. If you’re a doctor on call, or your wife might be about to go into labour, keep your phone on. But also don’t go to the theatre.
3: Don’t eat. It’s three hours, maximum. You’re not going to starve. If you’re a diabetic and you really, really do need to eat, eat nothing from a packet that rustles.
3.1:If you eat sweets wrapped individually, you’re going first up against the wall when I’m finally put in charge.
4: This rule is perhaps the most important of all: remember you’re in public. With other people. Those people might want to watch and hear, uninterrupted, the thing they’ve paid £20 and more for to watch.
5: Be. Considerate.
That should do. Oh, I know some of you are raging at me. I know that some of my colleagues in the theatre world are appalled. They now think that I am the worst kind of elitist snob and that it’s thanks to these anachronistic attitudes that some people think theatre is a medium that isn’t for them. Wrong. On all counts. Hand-wringing liberal media outlets carry an article every six months by my reckoning, on the fact that theatres ought to relax their attitudes on behaviour. One recent piece said that middle class rules have deadened theatres and made them inaccessible to people of a certain class. This is actually deeply classist and, by the by, wildly offensive to those of us raised in a happy working class home.
The rules I’ve outlined come not from a middle class upbringing. You know where the rules above come from? Being polite, having manners, being considerate: in short old-fashioned working class values (when you can afford little, manners, that cost nothing, are something of value you can have).
Good manners don’t belong to the middle-classes.
It’s polite to the people around you at the theatre to sit quietly and pay attention: it’s not the TV, you can’t turn it up.
I look forward to seeing these rules posted at theatres around the land.