‘Ladies and gentlemen,’ a voice says as the light dims over the theatre. ‘Please switch off your phones, sit back, relax and enjoy the show.’ The actors come on and the performance starts. You’re having a great time, but then you see it. That person right in front of you who is still happily tapping away on the phone, and who looks like he – or she; it’s more often a she – has absolutely no intention of putting it away any time soon. You have an internal debate as to whether or not you should say something, and eventually, you take a deep breath, tap them on the shoulder and whisper in your nicest possible voice, ‘Please can you turn that off?’ Sometimes they simply roll their eyes at you and begrudgingly comply, but we’ve also had people who retort, ‘Why?’ Why? Because it’s disruptive, because it shows you have a total disregard for others around you, and because it’s just plain rude.
And even if no one says anything, don’t kid yourself and reason that it’s because we haven’t noticed, because we have – we’re probably just sitting too far away, or we’re feeling a little too shy to pipe up. Think about it: everything in the seating area is dark, apart from the light radiating from your screen as you either try to sneak in a photo despite having heard the announcement that no photography is allowed, or are so obsessed with your lover/bestie/mum that you can’t stop talking to them for even just a couple of hours. Seriously guys, you’ve probably spent upwards of $50 on your ticket – as have your fellow audience members – so please, do us all a favour and leave that phone alone for a while. Think of it as a tech detox. We promise that the ‘really important message’ you told us you have to relay can wait a little longer. (And if it really can’t wait, please do it outside, where there aren’t several hundred pairs of eyes glaring at the back of your head.)
And since we’re on a roll, we might as well get this one off our chest too: we don’t need your running commentary throughout the performance. Just as much as we can see everything you’re typing on your phone, we can also hear everything you’re telling your friend. Especially when you’re not even making the effort to lower your voice. (We went to a show recently where the two ladies behind us have taken it upon themselves to provide a play-by-play account of what’s going on throughout, and when the narrator finally revealed herself in the second act, they simply couldn’t hold it in anymore – ‘She’s human!’ they yelled. Thanks for that. We would never have noticed had they not pointed it out.)
We’re so happy to see so many of you turning up at the theatre week after week, but let’s also try to encourage proper theatre etiquette so that we can all sit back, relax and enjoy the hard work that our talented casts and crews put on for us. Bottom line? Don’t be a douche.