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Ratings for Audiences

July 20, 2016

I don’t mean how many don’t watch “Top Gear” (never did, moving on), I mean giving them a guide on appropriate behaviour.

There’s been a lot in “The Stage” newspaper and others, discussing whether the old fashioned “sit down and shut up, except to laugh politely” form of theatregoing is an obsolete guide to good manners. Given that Kit Harrington says he didn’t mind the “Star Wars Bar Room” that was his audience recently, this is versus regular theatregoers like myself who don’t feel anything at all should change.

So, I was wondering if the compromise might be for producers to give their productions a rating, just like films, so we know what we can and can’t do. With that in mind, I’m suggesting the following:

AP: “Audience Participate.” Given to pantos, stand-up comedy etc. Anything where the audience is actively encouraged by the cast to shout out and / or heckle.

HP: “Hen Party.” Those ‘Jukebox Musicals’ and other shows that end with the audience encouraged to get up and dance in the aisle. An extra “HPD” category indicates that the theatre accept it’s fine to be drunk / take photos / generally behave without the slightest regard to anyone else around you.

C: “Celebrity.” You can make your feelings known by a loud whoop on first sighting the star, but other than that, being quiet and sober during the show is required.

R: “Regular.” The “sit down and shut up” rule applies. For regular theatregoers, who know what to do. All others can put up or ship out, basically.


Alternatively, the theatre staff themselves can rate shows according to their own observations and frustrations:

N: National Theatre audience. Quiet, well-behaved, well versed in theatre etiquette. Only likely disturbance is when one of them, unintentionally and discreetly, snuffs it during the show.

F: Same as the above, but in the West End. More of them likely to survive to the final curtain.

NE: Noisy but expected. Shows where the crowd won’t be the usual theatre lot, but should behave pretty well. Think “Funny Girl” etc.

WTF: Yep, it’s a “Jukebox Show” and we can’t control Mandy from Accounting, who is Jägerbomb’s best customer and will have a good time no matter what…


Maybe it’s time that reminders were printed on a leaflet sent with the tickets, and projected onto the curtain before the show begins. Back it up by adding proper, paid, security to the front-of-house team. Give the usually young, overwhelmed ushers the backup they need and deserve, with trained professionals available to physically remove miscreants.

Go a stage further. Think about the food and alcohol sold in the theatre. Limit it to quiet and lesser intoxicating products, and search bags more thoroughly for what is brought in.

Add that new technology that will block cameras, and make it clear that “we will prosecute.”

It is down to the theatre as much as the audience, but if we all start communicating, who knows what might just be achieved, longer term?



So, with the weather heating up, I’m taking a blog break. Back when the leaves start to change colour, on 7th September. Have a good summer, all.

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