The Theatre Charter

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DO YOU HEAR THE PEOPLE’S PHONE RING? WE HAVE HAD ENOUGH WITH BAD AUDIENCE BEHAVIOUR! WE NEED YOUR HELP TO MAKE A REAL CHANGE. PLEASE READ AND SIGN OUR CHARTER BELOW ... AND SPREAD THE WORD!!

 

Why we all need to act now

For years I have been championing and encouraging better behaviour from theatre audiences, and friends and fellow theatregoers have often asked that action is taken.

This year, the outcry has reached fever pitch, with stories in the press on almost a weekly basis about performances being disrupted by mobile phone usage and other offences.

man-on-phone-2I am all for attracting new audiences – we need them to keep theatre alive – but bad audience behaviour is now putting off our most regular and loyal theatregoers who are fed up with paying good money for tickets only to have their enjoyment ruined by those around them. Losing their custom will be disastrous for the long-term health of the shows and theatre in general.

We need action not words and a focused and intelligent marketing strategy to galvanise a response. This Theatre Charter is a my attempt to instruct the casual and future audience members as to what is acceptable behaviour – and to assist seasoned theatregoers in encouraging observance in others.

If we can create a groundswell of support for this Charter, my hope is that theatres will also adopt and champion it with the rest of their audiences.

I am happy to champion this charter and welcome your comments, support and commitment to working together to make theatre a magical experience once again.

If you are passionate about this, please sign up to the Charter and spread the word. Let’s make a difference.

Richard Gresham, Theatre Charter founder

Follow @TheatreCharter on Twitter

THE THEATRE CHARTER

We, the undersigned, promise …

  • Commitment

    • To be fully aware of other audience members and their right to uninhibited enjoyment of any production
    • To respect those on stage
    • To follow etiquette in theatres
    • To encourage good behaviour in others
  • MOBILE PHONES

    Society’s mobile addiction is becoming more and more pervasive, but theatre is the time to enjoy a brief respite.

    • To turn off mobile phones and other digital devices before the performance begins. Silent mode is not off; buzzing is also a distraction
    • To double or triple check that devices are off when instructed. When instructed does not mean as the lights go down or as the overture starts, but when instructed. Lights down is not an opportunity to have a last look at email or send a text
    • To never check your phone during the performance for any reason
    • To never tweet during a performance unless specifically requested by those on stage
    • To never never film or photograph anything unless specifically requested by those on stage
    • To check that all devices are switched off again before returning from the interval
  • OTHER BEHAVIOUR

    The theatre is a shared experience, not a night in in front of the telly. You, and everyone around you will appreciate the following courtesies.

    • To check the time on the ticket and arrive on time
    • To go to the loo prior to lights down
    • To remove all items you need from your bag prior to lights down, then leave the bag closed
    • To unwrap all sweets prior to lights down or during loud applause
    • To be quiet and still after lights down. This is not conversation time
    • To never leave mid-performance unless for medical or emergency reasons. If bored, leave discreetly at the interval
  • OBSERVANCE

    If someone near you is committing one of the above offences, you can help by doing the following. No fisticuffs!

    • To quietly ‘shhh’ the offender during the performance
    • To politely ask them to stop during an appropriate applause moment or at the interval
    • To request an usher to take action
    • To suggest that they log on to theatre-charter.co.uk before their next trip to the theatre!
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Theatre Charter in the news

WE UNDERTAKE TO FOLLOW AND ENCOURAGE OTHERS TO FOLLOW THIS CHARTER.

” I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” Chinese Proverb

Make the commitment

1,068 signatures

The Theatre Charter

Thank you for

Thank you for your five-star behaviour!

I undertake to follow and encourage others to follow to this charter.

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COMMENTS

Please share any thoughts on the Theatre Charter, as well as your own experiences of good and bad behaviour at performances you’ve attended. Let’s share and learn.

73 replies
  1. Caitlin Kennedy
    Caitlin Kennedy says:

    Yesterday I was enjoying Riverdance at the theatre in Wimbledon. A middle aged couple arrived during the interval, sat down quite close to me and opened up two large bags of Kentucky Fried Chicken they had clearly just bought!!! When I nearly fell off my seat in astonishment and pointed out they were in a theatre and not a fast food joint, they actually whined that they’d had a long journey! I found an usher and complained and he made them put the food away. Then the woman started to moan that it would get cold and be wasted. Seriously? They asked me a couple of times, “Are you happy now?” Needless to say, I didn’t dignify that with a response but if looks could kill, I wouldn’t be writing this post now.
    So, how did they get past front of house with two big, smelly bags of food, with an obvious logo?
    They were so late they missed the first half, but had time to stop and get food?
    How could anyone possibly think this behaviour is acceptable?
    If you’re desperate to eat and really can’t wait a whole hour, then chomp on a cereal bar or something similar to tide you over.
    I refused to allow this to spoil my enjoyment of the show (nothing could!) but it was very annoying indeed.

    Reply
  2. Emby
    Emby says:

    Still in shock not only at the appalling audience behaviour at MOTOWN this week but also at the overly officious Shaftesbury Theatre doorman who insisted on the enforcement of an exit interval ticket without which he threatened not to allow me to return! Mind you in hindsight that might have been a blessing…..

    Reply
  3. Paul C
    Paul C says:

    Most people go to a cinema theatre rather than a stage theatre which is where the rot begins, so your campaign needs to get Cineworld and other large cinema chains onside, good behaviour in cinema theatres may then crossover into other theatres.

    Your campaign needs to ask for more ushering after the performance starts as its easy to spot a mobile or KFC bucket once a performance or film begins.

    Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo have already produced a Code of Conduct, so you have a good platform from the BBC to call on.

    Get the cinemas onside , enforce behaviour through ushering and awareness campaigns, as good customers we must complain too to management at intervals or during the show. No point being British and silently fuming, I have paid a lot of cash for a performance or film and don’t want distractions.

    Reply
  4. Nigel Smith
    Nigel Smith says:

    Well, Richard, you have opened a can of worms! Emotive responses on both sides of the argument.

    I must say that I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment of what you aim to achieve here, but I also do take the point that some others have made that some of the very forceful language used may serve to alienate rather than engage the very people you hope to reach.

    In changing habitual behaviour it’s important to take a very level approach. Mind you, I am someone who was brought up to believe it was the height of bad manners to correct someone else’s manners, which places me on the horns of a dilemma when someone near me suddenly lights up the darkness in the midst of a performance with their mobile (and it really is amazing how bright they are even when “discreetly” glanced at through the opening of a handbag). At a fairly recent performance I was viewing from the front of a theatre circle and through much of the play could see a sea of glowing screens and tapping thumbs in the stalls below, and I had to wonder why any of these people had bothered to pay for a ticket and come to the performance.

    It is quite unacceptable to deliberately use a mobile phone during a performance in a theatre, and the same goes for cinema (where it is supposed to be dark) and at orchestral concerts and other similar musical performance (where it is supposed to be quiet). Despite being very careful about switching it off before I sit down, if not before, I cannot say that there has never been a time when I have forgotten to do so. I do recall being startled once by my own phone vibrating silently in my pocket, but as it is permanently on silent anyway at least it only disturbed me! I am therefore prepared to forgive someone who has to jump to silence a device, provided they look suitably embarrassed – we all make mistakes.

    I would also prefer a careful (and swift) unwrapping of a cough sweet or a dive into a handbag for a handkerchief to a bout of uncontrolled and unstifled coughing. Again, I understand that coughs and sneezes are generally involuntary, but it is easy to try and do it quietly, covering the mouth (rather than cupping hands before it in a megaphone effect as some people seem to prefer). By the way – don’t even get me started on people who have a desperate need to rehydrate every 2 minutes but who still can’t master the art of unscrewing a water bottle without making it pop, crack and crinkle in their hands…

    I have occasionally been bored or unentertained to the point of near apoplexy in some performances, but never once in over 4 decades have I ever got up to leave before an interval – I have no right to disturb either the performers or the rest of the paying public due to my own selfishness.

    The charter you’ve set out addresses a number of concerns that are the bain of many a theatre enthusiast, but to be effective I’d suggest it needs to approach the subject in a somewhat less confrontational manner. If I were one of “those” people I may be moved to purposely bring a multi-pack of Walkers and a few well shaken ring-pull cans and sit right in front of you wearing a tall hat!

    I certainly do think that theatre management should take a lead in this by politely but firmly reminding customers that for everyone’s enjoyment, mobiles should be turned off. I approve of the often witty ways in which many plays nowadays include a themed announcement before the beginning, getting the message across with humour often seem very effective.

    And as for photographing or filming during a performance; There is no requesting about it – this is an infringement of the writers’ and performers’ rights and is absolutely forbidden unless expressly permitted in specific cases. Under normal circumstances, anyone found doing this can expect to have the device confiscated unless they agree to delete the material, and those who fail to cooperate can expect to be asked to leave.

    There are a great many of us whose inner voices perpetually cry out the same message of despair every time we sit in an auditorium, but we have the unfortunate disadvantage that this voice has to remain silent unless we are to compound the error, leaving us with steam gently issuing from our ears by the time the final curtain arrives…

    Reply
  5. Sam
    Sam says:

    Everybody bought a ticket, everybody should be able to enjoy the performance in their own way …. I wonder how many people have their experience ‘ruined’ because they choose to fixate their attention on whispers, sweet wrappers, phones etc and not on the performance. I rarely here anything during a performance that is actually louder than the performers on stage. Sit back, relax, celebrate diversity, enjoy yourself

    Reply
  6. Janet Young
    Janet Young says:

    It’s not just in Shakespeare’s time that sex went on in the theatre, it happened in the row behind me last week at an opera during the final love duet and was accompanied by groaning, scuffling and giggling from the couple. Having complained to the Customers Care director of the venue, “up North”, I realised that my complaints had fallen on deaf ears. The venue appear to think it is beyond their control to set any kind of expectation of good behaviour.

    Reply
  7. Benjamin Luke
    Benjamin Luke says:

    A retrograde, prescriptive and insulting document. Yes, it occasionally annoys people when you’re constantly distracted, but this seems to alienate the future generation of theatregoers. The theatre is not a sanctuary, nor an ivory tower, and it’s documents like this that contribute to the feeling that some people have (certainly a lot of my friends) that the theatre is some high bastion of culture that they are excluded from. Theatre is a live event, and as such cannot be a 100% passive experience.

    Reply
  8. Gordon Townsend
    Gordon Townsend says:

    Well!!!! with the ever decreasing funding for the arts and the dis interest particularly in classical music, do we really want to discourage attendance at these events. Try appealing before getting peoples backs up. If the audience is captivated there will be an automatic cessation of annoying things.
    Make the experience enjoyable, appeal rather than be toffee nosed and who knows no one will want to spoil another’s enjoyment.
    Keep moaning and it is all back to an under funded, under attended exclusive club limited to a few.

    Reply
  9. Huw Davis
    Huw Davis says:

    Being an ardent theatre fan who has converted a few friends to likewise, while I totally agree with the principles of what your doing, I do think that the way you’ve set them out is maybe just abit dictatorial and maybe accepted more if you came over a little less forceful, otherwise I totally agree in principle with your aims, so lets hope that maybe some sensible guidelines that theatre’s can start using in their programmes to push the message out about respect of fellow theatre goers and general theatre manners can come about. I wish you the best with this.

    Reply
  10. Josh
    Josh says:

    How does the theater charter suggest we cope with an audience member with a large afro? it could block the view of the stage for the audience behind! should Front of House staff force him to have an on the spot “buzz cut” or “no 1″ before the start of the show?!

    Reply
  11. nicola
    nicola says:

    How true – some people have no respect – and I always seem to get sat in front of some idiot who keeps kicking my chair and spoils the show for me, hence I will now only go to a show if can get in row C – with no one behind me! PS please add to these lists – ladies please wear less perfume and hairspray so we don’t all die from the fumes!!!

    Reply
    • Sam
      Sam says:

      Really?? No talking, no texting, no fidgeting, no big hair, no makeup, no perfume, no hairspray … Is hair gel ok … it is a bit like hairspray? What about aftershave, is that smell acceptable, or will we allow some aftershaves but not others depending on whether we like them? Who will get to decide and will it vary from Theatre to Theatre … Kelvin Klein ok in Salisbury but not in Bristol?

      Sound ridiculous?

      Reply
  12. Neil
    Neil says:

    It seems to me that there are some people who have no intention of watching what is on the stage, and regardless as to how good the production is, those people would still be on their electronic device. The bottom line is, IF anyone has something better to do, or need to do, then they need to go and do it. Just don’t sit in a theatre annoying other people, when there is no intention of watching the production.

    Reply
  13. Polly Wiseman
    Polly Wiseman says:

    I’d be happy to sign and abide by the charter, if the action on stage entertains me. If it bores me to tears, I reserve the right to fidget, check my texts and wait for something more exciting to happen. I work in theatre – but I feel we’re on dodgy ground if we demand utter reverence for our shows and our somewhat insular customs. Some shows and some performers just aren’t compelling enough to deserve it.

    Reply
    • Richard Gresham
      Richard Gresham says:

      Sometimes theatre can be engaging for some and not for others and if other people are enjoying it is it really right that you interrupt their experience with texting etc. Just a thought.

      Reply
    • CMC
      CMC says:

      For god’s sake!! Am I alone in thinking Polly’s post sums up precisely the reason a charter is needed? ie, if she is entertained by what’s on stage, that’s fine and she’ll be happy to sit and enjoy the show – quietly, i assume. If not, regardless of whether her fellow audience is being entertained, and would like to watch without distraction, it’s ok for her to ‘fidget etc etc etc’. Selfish or what? At least she’s honest, though

      Reply
    • Raymond
      Raymond says:

      If you find yourself bored by a play or the performance of it, it is a situation that can change. 20mins later you might find your attention caught by some of the lines delivered, or a dramatic silence; or you may simply learn to understand the play a bit more; none of this can happen if you resign yourself to your phone.

      Reply
  14. Elliott Wallis
    Elliott Wallis says:

    I have always had a massive problem with theatre etiquette and peoples lack of it. It seems to have become a lot more apparent in the last year. I don’t understand why people can’t switch off their phones and sit and enjoy a show. It’s not that difficult, is it? We have become a society addicted to technology so much that we can’t do without it, even for 2 and a half hours of entertainment. I have been on a drama course all year in Stratford-upon-Avon so I have been to the RSC a lot and I have rarely sat though a performance there when I haven’t been annoyed by an audience member. Whether that be talking, phones going off, taking photos during a show, arriving late, etc. I was at one performance where there were a group of young people talking because they didn’t understand what was going on and at that same performance 2 people’s phones rang! It’s what gives us young people a bad reputation when it comes to theatre. I’ve had a lot of older people looking at me quite surprised for just being in the theatre, never mind behaving properly. But it isn’t just young people, people of all ages can be just as bad as each other and it’s really annoying! It needs to stop!!

    Reply
  15. Gary Whalen
    Gary Whalen says:

    An inspired charter. This needs to happen.

    Reply
  16. Raymond
    Raymond says:

    A bit different here: I have never, to date, attended a theatre, but having read about this site in the Observer article, I felt impelled to draw analogy to the experiences i/we suffer in church (Church services involve, dare I say, a form of theatre).

    Churches pride themselves in being ‘family-friendly’, and that means children. Many services get blighted from start to finish by the howling of babies and toddlers; in response, the parent (singular) spends the entire time attempting to placate it, and neither of them are paying any attention to the service. It’s a case of – if you can’t keep them quiet, keep them home. The Church, being what it is, refuses to reprimand or ban them. And the majority of the congregation, unable to hear the words of the priest, have wasted their time.

    In other words, we suffer the same problem as theatre-goers, except one might say the consequences can be more profound!

    I’m digitally dyslexic, but if someone would like to set up a sister site (‘church-charter.co.uk’?), I would send a link to every church website I can find.

    Reply
  17. Justin Gau
    Justin Gau says:

    I agree with everything in the charter apart from the split infinitives.

    I’ll get my coat. Quietly.

    Reply
  18. Gavin Roebuck
    Gavin Roebuck says:

    Respect the artists and fellow audience members.

    Reply
  19. George Hammerschmidt
    George Hammerschmidt says:

    So much to agree with in these letters. I am an old man but must admit, many theatre, concert and cinema observations are that increasingly bad manners are not confined to the young. Fortunately, my favourite theatres seem to attract largely serious and committed theatre-goers.

    I would like to add one small dislike to all the others already mentioned: the over-enthusiastic insistence on standing to applaud just to demonstrate ones’s enjoyment to one’s neighbours and, at the same time, blocking the view of the people behind. The cast can hear applause from seated audiences just as well as those on their feet.

    Reply
    • Nuit Vol
      Nuit Vol says:

      Wholeheartedly agree – it was the ongoing “I want to go” “well we can’t yet” repeated exchange behind me at the proms last night, MID PERFORMANCE (and during a quiet bit) that wound me up.

      The woman in question was posh, well-clad, old enough to know better. I presume her intention was to force her way along the row behind in front of the other prom-goers during the performance. She was sitting directly behind me so I turned round and stuck my finger to my lip at her. Thankfully they left in a break between pieces.

      Reply
    • Roger Newman Turner
      Roger Newman Turner says:

      With you there, George!
      For too long now the standing ovation has been cheapened by undiscriminating audiences (mostly Americans, I’m afraid, for whom you only need to sneeze to get one, it seems) who leap to their feet and block our view of the performers taking their bows.

      Another insidious habit from over the pond: applauding famous actors when they make their entrance before they’ve earned it. Some years ago at a production of Heartbreak House, dripping with household names, the play ground to a halt with the applause as each of them entered.

      Reply
  20. Terri Paddock
    Terri Paddock says:

    I am fascinated and amazed by the response to the Theatre Charter over the past week, particularly since Stephen Fry tweeted about it. I welcome all the discussion, and so many points of view. I hope this will lead to more positive action and consideration. I’ve been helping Richard on the Twitter and promotion front and have blogged at more length about my own thoughts and involvement here.

    I sincerely applaud Richard for his passion and commitment to championing theatre in general and good audience behaviour more specifically.

    Reply
  21. Glyn Cannon
    Glyn Cannon says:

    I’ve worked in theatre of all kinds for getting on for twenty years, and been an audience member for longer than that – and I’m sorry, I have to say stuff like this is really troubling to me.

    I think Andrzej is right – being socially inconsiderate is being socially inconsiderate, whether in a theatre or not. A doctor on call or a parent will want to have their phone on to vibrate, and might need to check it. I personally have no issue with that at all. One might counter that parents and doctors have managed to attend theatre performances long before the mobile phone existed – but then rolling back the clock takes us backwards to brightly lit auditoriums, outdoor auditoriums and all kinds of shennanigans, doesn’t it?

    This all risks amounting to a rulebook of how to go to theatre, which seems exclusive to me. And I think the negotiations in this contract between theatremakers and audiences are skewed. Why not demand shows that are so engaging that the behaviour in the auditorium wouldn’t matter? Aren’t the ticket prices ever a source of irritation? Have you not paid for a right to vote with your feet and show the makers that their work is not worth the amount you paid? If the sound of sweet wrappers is that irritating should you not ask the theatres not to sell them before the performance?

    Personally, my love of theatre always stemmed from a love of its communality, being part of a body of people sharing an experience, acknowledging the simple of joy of just being with each other. And other people shuffle, and laugh, and fidget and eat and do all kinds of things.

    I don’t want to outstay my welcome and rant at length here, I’ve done that on a blog of my own. And if your initiative sparks a general discussion of the quality of the medium, and who gets to have a say in that, that’s great, I applaud it. But I do think both theatre history and future technology are both lined up against you, and I do urge you to have a think about who benefits most here from a very polite, quiet, acquiescent audience.

    Reply
  22. Van Morgan
    Van Morgan says:

    I agree about mobile phones, wrappers etc but, for me, the biggest problem isn’t any of those.

    It’s people TALKING during performances … even little whispers carry to the ears of people around them. The make comments, repeat punchlines etc. Some people seem to think that if they talk in a non-English language, the people around them can’t hear.

    I’d like to see a polite reminder at the start of productions for people to shut up.

    It’s not so bad in London, but New York has it’s share of self-absorbed chatterers. Sydney, Australia is the worst – they don’t go for the play, they go for a good old natter.

    The problem is that a polite request to stop is often ignored or treated as as affront. People know they should not have a mobile on and usually stop when asked, but talkers feel they are entitled. Some announcement before the start would change that dynamic … hopefully.

    Reply
  23. CM
    CM says:

    I support this wholeheartedly! I go to classical sit-down concerts more often than the theatre, but there have been countless times I’ve heard inconsiderate people mutter ‘listen, this is the famous part’, laugh out loud to show everyone they understand a Latin phrase, esoteric reference or musical joke, drop things on the floor that shouldn’t have been balanced precariously in the first place, jangle jewellery, furiously turn pages and write ‘important’ notes in their journal, clear throats that don’t need clearing at all… the list goes on. How difficult is it to sit quietly, not eat, not check messages or flip through the programme, for what’s actually a very short period of time? We might be in the 21st century but we can still show respect and consideration to others. Surely that’s just common sense – not snobbery! This is a great initiative – good luck!

    Reply
    • RP
      RP says:

      If all of those things are distracting to you – can I suggest that whatever it is you are seeing it obviously not grabbing your attention in the first place. Most of the time when im at the theatre (when its something I can afford or justify spending £50 + on) it grabs my attention so much that someone could be blowing a trumpet next to me and I wouldn’t notice.

      There are lots of places where common courtesy is non existent (busses, work places, shops, clubs etc) but that’s part of being outside of your house and socialising with other people and the beauty of these other people is that they’re not just like you, we’re all different and we all have different ideas. If you don’t like people, don’t go out.

      I agree there needs to perhaps be more guidelines on what’s acceptable and what’s not in the theatre, but we have to be careful not to exclude people, not to put people off coming. These performances are held in theatres so that they can be inclusive and community based. It’s not nice to make people feel like they wont fit in.

      Reply
  24. Alun
    Alun says:

    This campaign is needed.
    Lots is being done to encourage new audiences, and that’s a brilliant, brilliant thing. What we should’t be doing is forgiving bad behaviour in order to fill a few seats.
    I’ve had some truly terrible experiences in theatres over the past few years with people talking (not people, theatre-going, royal-wedding-dress-designing celebrities!), and some getting abusive when asked politely to be quiet.
    The theatre will always need new, fresh audiences to develop and survive, but that does not mean allowing poor etiquette and behaviour which spoils the enjoyment of other theatregoers and theatre lovers.

    Reply
  25. S.V. Millwood
    S.V. Millwood says:

    Thank you for elucidating this serious issue so eloquently. I am a 22-year-old professional musician, and suffer the same issues at concerts, whether as a performer or as an audience member. There is nothing snobbish about expecting audiences to maintain silence: it is a rare opportunity to absorb oneself in the performance without external distractions. For me, this is an essential and indispensable facet of the experience of hearing the performance live. For my part, when I attend a concert or production, I always either remove the battery from my mobile telephone, or leave it in the cloakroom.

    I would like to propose an addition to this excellent charter, regarding the attitude of those who arrive late: a small minority of latecomers seem to think the world revolves around them, and feel entitled to take their seat as soon as they arrive, and become very rude to the stewards who, quite rightly, tell them that they have to wait until the interval. Unfortunately, many venues seem to prioritise keeping these people appeased over enabling the performers and patrons already in the auditorium to experience the performance uninterrupted. I hope that you will consider lobbying individuals and venues on this matter.

    Reply
  26. JB
    JB says:

    Yes, yes , yes. Please let’s search people when they enter the auditorium and unless their phone is switched off or they agree to switch it off there and then, confiscate it for return later, or refuse them entry and give them a refund. This, together with people talking loudly through a play, and the sweet paper stuff makes going to the theatre an ordeal more often than not nowadays. I have been verbally assaulted for asking people to be quiet and my kids live in dread now of me intervening with one or another noisy patron so I try to keep myself in check as I fume at their inconsiderate behaviour.
    Same thing at the cinema. Why is it that people feel they can behave in an auditorium of several hundred others as if they are in their own living room? Yes, I know in Shakespearean times it was different, but that was a long time ago and we had moved on somewhat although it now feels as if we are running backward into the seventeenth century in terms of manners in theatre and cinema venues.

    Reply
  27. gary
    gary says:

    Sad that this should even have to be pointed out to people. Even sadder that people are objecting to these basic manners. Well done for setting this up. This is nothing to do with snobbishness, quite the reverse. I find it is regular theatre goers who cause the most problems. Those who have less to spend and visit once a year are the ones who concentrate and enjoy the theatre most because it is a special event.

    Reply
  28. Neil
    Neil says:

    We wrote about this previously and again on 4th July 2014
    It is time for the disrespectful use of mobile devices in theatres to stop!
    Selected text:
    Mobile phones obviously have their uses, but in a way they have become an addiction. If you are anything like me, when I leave the house there are usually three items I check that I have: Wallet, car keys and mobile phone. Years ago it was two, car keys in one pocket and wallet in the other.
    With their mobile somewhere about their person, every week many people head off to a place of entertainment, with many thousands going to a theatre. Some people go to the theatre straight from work, while others have to travel to see a show, the mobile device will be along for the ride.

    There are a few places where it is generally accepted that you can’t use your mobile: such as, while travelling on a plane, filling your car with fuel on a petrol station forecourt and while being served at the post office. Note the absence of ‘theatre’ in that short list, but also note that while the first two are for safety reasons, the request to not use your mobile phone at a post office counter is one of ‘respect’. The person serving you wants your full undivided attention, and you doubtless want theirs.

    Not a week seems to go by when someone in a theatre audience gets singled out for using their mobile device during a performance. Recently, actor Kevin Spacey stopped his new play Clarence Darrow, on the opening night, to snap at an audience member whose mobile phone went off shouting at them ‘if you don’t answer that I will’.

    Surely it is about time this nonsense of the addictive use of mobile devices, while a theatrical performance is on, stopped. It isn’t just mobile phone users, it is also those typing away on their ipad/tablet/laptop.

    If anyone has something more important that they need to be doing, then quite simply get up and leave, and don’t come back into the theatre until you can leave your ‘electronic device’ in your pocket or bag. Alternatively, don’t go to the theatre to see a show in the first place.

    Why is this a problem? Quite simply it is a matter of respect and courtesy, and if you are reading this and don’t understand that, then read no further…

    Respect and courtesy should be shown to others in the audience who have paid money to go and see a show and not be needlessly disturbed by others around them, either with the noise of using an electronic device or by the light from it. Likewise, respect and courtesy to those on the stage who are trying to concentrate on giving the audience a great performance.
    Surely it is time for theatre owners to make it clear that the use of mobile devices during a performance WILL result in that person being removed from the performance. Yes it would be disruptive on a few occasions, but once word gets around that IF you use your mobile you are likely to be kicked out then I am sure there would be less people doing it.

    Print it on the tickets, notices in theatre foyers. Notice on the safety screen immediately before the performance. There is next to NOTHING at the moment informing theatregoers that they shouldn’t use their mobiles during a performance. Why not?
    ‘Mobile’ users – please think and show some respect. Theatre owners, it is time to act!
    Full article at: http://www.londontheatre1.com/index.php/92848/time-disrespectful-use-mobile-devices-theatres-stop/

    Reply
  29. Josh
    Josh says:

    I have signed it, as I agree with all of the above, but it is still a completely pointless endeavor that just preaches to the already converted. Also, in Shakespeare’s time punters used to have sex with prostitutes during performances in the top level of The Globe (If my tour guide that day is to be believed). If that’s the case, I think we’ve got off pretty lightly with sweet rustling while your trying to watch Jersey Boys!

    Reply
  30. Andrzej Lukowski
    Andrzej Lukowski says:

    It’s important to be considerate in the theatre – as everywhere in life – and while I’d seriously question what exactly you expect to achieve here, this this is maybe a debate worth having. But I think you should reconsider some of your language, particularly the bit where you explicitly single out ‘new audiences’ (and I can’t help but feel you mean ‘the young’ by extension). You’re in danger of seeming incredibly parochial, and I think you’d be unlikely to get much sympathy from a lot of theatres talking in those terms. And certainly my experience of mobile phones going off in theatres has never led me to believe new audiences were any more likely to have left them on than ‘regular and loyal theatregoers’. And do remember that ultimately, theatre is a live medium.

    Reply
    • Richard Gresham
      Richard Gresham says:

      I agree it is a debate worth having for as you can see there are strong feelings about it from both sides and from both young and old.
      I want the theatre experience to be great for both new and established audiences, which does mean there has to be some understanding of how disruptive phone use and other incidents are not only distracting to the actors but also to other theatregoers who pay from £10 -£90 + to watch the
      show. We want to engage with theatres to make the experience magical. Perhaps we can have a chat?

      Reply
      • Andrzej Lukowski
        Andrzej Lukowski says:

        I’d be up for a chat and maybe a feature if a bit more comes of this, I’m just wary of sensationalising the issue at this stage after all that ridiculous Richard III brouhaha

        Reply
    • Dan Dean
      Dan Dean says:

      I have to agree, I came here via an article about a campaign to switch off mobile phones in theatres, but, this is a tiny part of what’s suggested above: sorry, all for the mobile phone matter, but, some of the rest of what’s here is pedantic in the extreme; possibly bordering on fascistic.

      Focus on the mobile phone problem.

      Reply
  31. Michael
    Michael says:

    Aren’t we forgetting the Big One – needless, intrusive coughing? And premature applauding, where a meaningful silence should prevail for a little longer (and they know it)?

    Reply
    • Judy
      Judy says:

      These should definitely be included, both extremely annoying and selfish behaviour.

      Reply
  32. Deborah Shrewsbury
    Deborah Shrewsbury says:

    Is is just a propensity to general bad manners or an increasingly arrested attention span affecting the masses? It ain’t TV, folks – you have to concentrate.

    Reply
  33. Waterloo East Theatre
    Waterloo East Theatre says:

    A problem that all theatres have in common, especially disruptive in the smaller Fringe/off West End venues.
    We have to do something about it, and this is start! So to all other theatres, get signing and let theatre goers
    enjoy the performance and actors do their job without being distracted by the glow on someone’s face in the
    audience using their phone!

    Reply
  34. Tim Groves
    Tim Groves says:

    It’s the start of a movement!

    Reply
  35. Vickram Kapadia
    Vickram Kapadia says:

    To all involved in making this happen.
    Thank you so much. We really need this and more so in a country like India where etiquette is almost absent; theatre etiquette may require a dedicated finishing school.

    Reply
  36. Hugh Walkington
    Hugh Walkington says:

    Oh how I agree, with a hundred knobs on. Anyone ignorant to leave a phone on should be taken out and shot, and anyone rustling sweet wrappers should have to be shouted at by Dame Helen Mirren for half an hour …

    Reply
    • Richard Gresham
      Richard Gresham says:

      Not sure these rules should be in the charter but If I can Get Dame Helen involved……
      Lol

      Reply
    • Michael
      Michael says:

      With a silencer?

      Reply
  37. Tony Hasnath
    Tony Hasnath says:

    I am in support of a reform of theatre etiquette, however, must reiterate the importance of acknowledging the ‘time’ we are in- 21st C. Theatre has evolved some and so have our audiences. What once happened may not be completely and utterly necessary to maintain today. Respect should be upheld for the performers, yes I agree, but also the paying audience respected too. It’s an exchange. I’ve been a performer many times and in a variety of environments and styles. I’ve learned, what might need utter silence for one (Woman in Black), may not for another (Earthquakes in London).

    Silent mode (with vibration OFF) and tweets (LOW lighting please) are apart of everyday life. Again, a ‘level’ of RESPECT is needed. Not utter ‘ideal indoctrination’. We are after all, asking them to Listen (AUDIence), Not for them to instantly and cognitively Understand each and every passing second. Perceptive Perhaps…. Perhaps… Please comment further if necessary

    Reply
  38. Paul
    Paul says:

    Agree with most but not all. Why is is such a problem that someone leans forward? Do I have to wait for loud applause before reaching into my bag for a handkerchief to stem (or catch) the wet product of a sneeze? Which is worse; zip noise or snot shower? Although, this would be negated by the previous point about taking everything out first, allowing those taking their seats after me to kick the contents of my bag from here to E14….or crush my bag of popping Space Dust I brought to help me enjoy the performance?

    :)

    We do need boundaries, but not sure how practicable some of these are. Let’s not forget that Shakespeare’s popularity grew *because* there was a live bear in the background being eaten alive by dogs!

    Reply
  39. Cat Lee
    Cat Lee says:

    The audiences at Her Majesty’s Theatre have had some appalling people in them whenever I go, clearly there as part of some package deal or because it’s “one of the things you have to do if you visit London”, they talk and stuff their faces and put their feet over the back of the seat in front if there’s no one sat there, I didn’t have any desire to watch the show with a pair of stinking feet on the seat next to me! It makes me SO angry! They’re the centre of their own little world and if they’re bored then no one else’s enjoyment matters. In contrast the Phantom UK tour had wonderful audiences when I went as did “And The World Goes ’round”, “Urinetown” and “Cafe Society Swing”, the people that went to see those obviously wanted to be there and the atmosphere was so much more enjoyable.

    Reply
  40. Leah Mcgrath
    Leah Mcgrath says:

    Thank you for this! Great idea! I find some people can be so irritating during shows. Have spread the word to all my stagey friends on facebook and twitter. :-)

    Reply
  41. Stephanie Ressort
    Stephanie Ressort says:

    Great idea Richard. I’ve had too many shows ruined recently by people chatting. The alternative to this charter is me succumbing to the urge to stab the offending parties in the leg with a pen. To date I have mainly been held back by the fact that their screams would be even more distracting than their chatting.

    Having seen Knight of the Burning Pestle at the Globe SWP it would seem that bad audience behaviour is not a new phenomenon, it has been around as long as theatre has, which doesn’t mean we can’t try to do something about it.

    Reply
    • Richard Gresham
      Richard Gresham says:

      Thanks for your support. I know what you mean. Anyway please if you can get your friends to support this. R

      Reply
  42. Terri Paddock
    Terri Paddock says:

    Great initiative, Richard. Let’s take to the streets!

    Reply
  43. Cheshire STAGER
    Cheshire STAGER says:

    The Courtesy and Respect of Live Performance is very much in decline ! Having had experience from each side of the footlights, the general chatting about what people are having for their meal later, to outright heckling during a show !! It can be very off putting for both the audience, as well as the performers. Although we don’t want to put off those who come and support live events, there must be a way of politely asking people to give their attention to the entertainers on stage. Showing encouragement, in the form of applause, laughter, cheering and even audience participation where it is called for, is fantastic !!! However, during a quiet ballad or dramatic scene, the last thing you want to hear is; “Shall we try that new Chinese later, or do you prefer the food at our usual Pub.” Perhaps a notice in the Foyer or in the Programme could work, or maybe some folk might take offence. What do you think ?

    Reply
    • Richard Gresham
      Richard Gresham says:

      Yep – a notice/programme notes is what I am looking to talk to the industry depending on support for this.

      R

      Reply
  44. Clair Corbey
    Clair Corbey says:

    Great work Richard – about time too as far too many performances get interrupted by those who seem to think they’re sitting at home watching tv with no consideration for others

    Reply
  45. Barry Honeycombe
    Barry Honeycombe says:

    About time! Why do people think that they can behave as if they are at home in their lounge with no thought for others. I am sick and tired or having my evenings at the theatre ruined by the selfish and unthinking of others who have no regard for those around them.

    Bravo Richard for standing up and being counted on this issue.

    Reply

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