Fifteen years as an actress and then what?
I've discovered that life can be just as dramatic as
the roles I've played, drama school didn't prepare me for this!
But I love my current cast list, set and script
and these blogs are just a bumble through my life lessons.
Thursday, 1 October 2015
Brush Up Your Shakespeare - audiences and their theatre etiquette
“I spent most of my summer down at
the beach,” said Sandy in Grease, but as for me? I went to the theatre.
I have ticked some theatrical greats
off my ‘people that I love and want to see live’ bucket list. Antony Sher,
Harriet Walter and Imelda Staunton have all stunned me, moved me to tears and
demonstrated the utter brilliance of their craft. It’s an incredible feeling to witness the
power of human communication looking so effortless and yet being aware of the
toil and skill involved. Money well spent, I say, and for a fraction of the
cost for a ticket to Elf at The Dominion!
But something else struck me whilst
I soaked up some summer culture – audiences have changed.
There doesn’t seem to be that same
reverence or hushed respect from behind the fourth wall. The proscenium arch seems
to have been mistaken for a TV screen with the audiences in their own living
room. I’m going to sound like an old crone “it wasn’t like this in my day” but
I have a lot of respect for old crones and ‘my day’ was only a few years ago so
here comes the rant!
vWhen the lights go down – Sssshhhh! “Who’s that then?” “What she say?” are things you may hear
whispered in an auditorium, even my Grandpa decided to exclaim loudly that
“they wouldn’t have had kettles like that!” during a performance of a World War
1 play but when it comes to general chit chat .....Ssssssshhh. This summer I
was surrounded by theatre-goers discussing texts on their phones (there’s a
whole other section for that gripe) discussing their snacks and just having
general chats whilst the play was going on. In my book it is a travesty to chat
while Imelda Staunton is singing the balls off of ‘Rose’s Turn’ – if your focus
is not entirely on her then you shouldn’t be allowed in a theatre, any theatre
Imelda - there are no words
vIt’s not a panto – Pantomime is
brilliant; a fantastic way to introduce children to the theatre, they can
shout, scream and dance as much as they like. I even love the drunken hen do
dancing in the aisles that a Mamma Mia megamix creates, but it has a place. The
people next to me at a performance of ‘Oliver’ at The Watermill, after shouting
up to their friends in the balcony, decided to help the characters with their
lines. I’m pretty sure that this uber-talented cast (nearly all playing 3 or
more instruments live) had rehearsed enough to know the script and even though
it’s a very famous story, I do not need to hear you warble “Moooooooore” before
Bumble does and I certainly don’t need you to remind him that the law is “AN
ASS!!” Well done for seeing the film but if you want to be in the play – get an
agent and audition! (ps. You should add Cameron Blakely onto your own bucket
lists – he was Fagin in this production and is a truly enigmatic and magnetic
Cameron Blakely is awesome. In everything!
vPhones – We can see you! You
face is illuminated by a blue glare and it pisses actors off. Benedict was onto
you this summer with his eloquent stage door plea. You are not in Avatar – stop
giving yourself a blue face, the world won’t stop if you turn off your phone
for a bit. There might even be something more stimulating happening on the
vAn ice-cream in the interval – that’s all!
I love the very
English tradition of eating a local, over-priced ice cream with a tiny shovel
whilst staunchly minding our seats from potential chancers. A treat in-between
acts whilst the actors have a fag /wig change so we can chill out and read
their biogs in the programme. But since when is it ok to have a meal.....during
the show? It’s been this way in the cinema for a while now; smelly nachos and
phallic fake meat in a bun to stink out the room. My late Nannie had to endure
the munching of popcorn and wafts of nachos whilst watching me in a stadium in
Europe. I have even heard an audience member open ‘the noisiest bag of crisps
available to man’ as we sat on the barricades watching Eponine die in Les Mis -
the lack of awareness was comical. But I resent sitting next to a rustling
picnic of homemade sandwiches and fizzing bottles of pop whilst watching a
Should I blame Simon Cowell and
Andrew Lloyd Webber? Have they brought the TV watching audience into theatres
via reality casting? Do we blame social media for forcing us to tweet our
opinions before the finale? Or is our fault for no longer wearing an evening
gown for a night in the West End and instead trailing in with our shopping bags
and collapsing into our £70 seat like it’s an armchair?
But wait, old crone. Shouldn’t I move
with the times? The Donmar’s 2014 play, Privacy,
asked audiences to actually use their phones as part of the production. Selfies
were used to prove a point about our digital footprints – we are in the digital
age after all why shouldn’t art tackle it? We are asked to tweet our reactions
to help with the marketing of a show, heck, most productions don’t even use the
proscenium arch anymore. We explore promenade theatre, we go to site-specific
productions where we may be in a shop, a field or a restaurant; we are taking exciting
And shouldn’t I just be pleased that
people are leaving their lounges and going to the theatre? Anybody and everybody should keep attending and gaining from all the
marvellous things that a live performance offers. I don’t want us to go back to
an elitist age where people think that the theatre’s too posh for them but
maybe we do need to brush up on our theatre etiquette, if only to show our
respect to the actors beyond the footlights who are slogging their guts out.