Theaterms of Conduct

By Martin Docherty

DO

Go to more student theatre productions.

Look at that student actor over there. Scampering through the aisles looking for dropped 20p coins that’ll help him make it to Cheapskates at Loft on a Monday. Bags under his eyes, heavier than the unpayable debt of university. He’s either method acting the ghost dad in Hamlet or he needs you to support more student-run productions. On a (slightly more) serious note, there are events such as the Durham Drama Festival in February, which are entirely student-run plays, which is something you wouldn’t otherwise get to see. It’ll be doubly impressive when a play comes together at these events because the casts will likely have put together their fantastic productions in between juggling a multitude of deadlines, like a cohort of caffeine-motivated clowns. Furthermore, any psychology students could likely use the entire event as a case study on stress.  

Turn off your phone.

The theatre is an age-old tool, used to reflect on humanity’s varying foibles and brilliances. It gives us catharsis, comedy and entertainment. I know this. The 3 million people who visited the National Theatre last year know this. Aristotle knew this. The measly 42 Twitter followers that you’re about to disrupt the performance to tweet “bad play lol” to, they know this. You should also know this. At least put the phone on silent.

Stay in your seat.

Incessant moving from seat to seat is incredibly distracting for actors. Just because you’re watching Little Shop of Horrors does not mean that it becomes musical chairs. It’s just bad form.

DON’T

Offer your interpretation until the curtain closes.

Durham University is one of the top universities worldwide for studying English, so naturally the English students here will be of the top calibre in the country (with this article I continue to be the exception that proves the rule). However, please do contain your inner dramatic critic until the play is over. As much as I’m sure your point about how a scene could have been better staged is forever relevant, it doesn’t need to be heard whilst the actors are still acting. Your friend doesn’t need to know during the performance that you think he’s called Macavity because like a cavity, he has an absence, that of the law in his life. Things like that stop people from coming to see Cats with you.

Give other theatre-goers “the eye”.

I understand. You’ve followed this impeccable ruleset down to a t. Your phone is off. You’re in your seat. You’re enjoying watching the student production that’s decided to do cyberpunk Hamlet. But just as the protagonist lifts his glowing visor and utters the immortal ‘To be, or not to be’, you hear an almighty crunch. You wonder if you should turn your phone on to call for help for the actor who must’ve shattered a bone to make that all-penetrating crack. You then smell salt and vinegar. Your gaze beams through the audience members next to you, hunting for the culprit. You spot the offender, reaching for another malevolent crisp. You hope your gaze will bore into your theatre-going adversary’s head, compelling them to either close the packet, or make like the crisps’ brand name and Walker on out.

Think about how much time you’ve spent maligning this anonymous crisp-eater. In that time Robo-Hamlet could have reclaimed the throne of Neo-Denmark (the plot diverged slightly from what Shakespeare, perhaps, originally intended), and you would have missed it. The angry glare not only detriments your own viewing, but it shows the actors you aren’t paying attention to the on-stage iOphelia soliloquy. Also it looks really silly – furrowed brows are not a particularly good look, especially when impotently directed at the back of someone’s head.

Eat crisps.

You thought from the last rule that I was fine with this? You’ll get off less scot-free here than you would in a Macbeth production.

Have we not learnt by now? As an evolved human race, have we not realised that crisps are the single most disruptive food to eat at anything? (Spoiler – as an allegedly evolved human, I had also not figured that out until recently until I munched my way through a film and felt terrible afterwards. Not completely terrible, because Thai Sweet Chilli walkers are delicious, but partially terrible. Anyway, I’m not going to do it anymore and because of that no-one else can enjoy crisps when I won’t.)

I hope you’ve enjoyed these objectively correct and not facetious at all tips to how to make your theatre trip superlative!

Illustration:Charlotte Way 

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