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How to enjoy a night at the theatre

 So that journalistically useful wo/man from Mars arrives in Britain in 2018 and decides to go to theatre but needs a few tips. Here’s the deal:

1.If your seats are in the middle of a row it’s obligatory to come in last. Wait until everyone else is comfortably sat down and arrive a few seconds before the show is due to start.

2.“Theatre” is really another word in modern English for “picnic area” so make sure you have plenty of food with you. Sandwiches, chocolates – or even a takeaway meal if you haven’t had time to eat first. The custom is for theatre food to be as noisy and smelly as possible so packets of rustly crisps are perfect.

3.You also need a drink in a plastic glass so that you can ritualistically slop some of it over your neighbours’ feet as you squeeze along the row to your seat. It’s all part of the experience. Red wine is the perfect choice because white trousers are fashionable at present and you should be able to make your mark without too much difficulty.

4.Ignore all those  instructions to turn off your mobile phone. They don’t mean it – it’s just part of the imaginary world of the show. You need your phone on so that you can flash it on and off during the action. Actors get very disappointed if they can’t see switched on phones across the auditorium.

5.And while you’ve got the phone handy make sure you take lots of photographs and videos. Of course it’s a myth that it’s illegal. You want plenty of selfies, shots of the action and so on to show your mates afterwards – or better still to send them immediately. It’s more fun than watching what’s on stage.  Theatre is for sharing. It isn’t as though anyone is earning their living by it, after all.

6.The purpose of the overture, or any sort of musical introduction, is to cover the chat you will want to have with your neighbour. You’re not supposed actually to listen to those hardworking musicians so make sure you have a really good natter.

7.At the end of the performance, irrespective of how good (or not) it really was you must leap immediately to your feet and clap, shout, whistle and yelp as loudly as you can. This is especially important if the ending of the show has been quiet, thoughtful or tragic.

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Susan Elkin
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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