There’s always that one person at the theatre that makes you go:
Whether it’s the girl with the obnoxious ringtone or that guy with the witty – but only in his head – comebacks for every line of dialogue. We know them only too well. Here’s how to avoid being one of those people.
- DO arrive early. We know, we know, because of ‘African Time’ nothing ever starts at the advertised time here in Nigeria. But maybe we can start to change this culture in small ways. Plus, on that one day when someone decides to start a show on time, you don’t want to be on the receiving end of the hisses and evil glares that are sure to come your way as you try to find a seat minutes into the performance.
- DO put them gadgets away. Phones, tablets, music players, watches with alarms: keep them on silent or, better yet, turn them off. Apart from the noises that these things make, the glare from some screens is like Lagos sunlight. Please spare the audience and the performers the distraction. You really don’t have to like Onome’s on-fleek eyebrows on Instagram right away, and surely you can wait an hour or two before sliding into Demilade’s DMs. And that person that likes to call every fifteen minutes to
stalkcheck on you – be it Bae or Daddy or Pastor Loveday – call them before the show and let them know you’ll be unreachable for a while. They will be alright.
- DON’T use flash photography. We know how much you love to take one photo – or ten – for the ’gram, but the flashing light from your phone or camera can distract the performers and other audience members. Also, filming is usually not allowed in theatre productions. If you’re uncertain about this, ask a person in charge (see why you should arrive early?). And if they say you can’t film, please respect this and do as you’ve been told.
- DO avoid moving around during the show. Use the bathroom, fix your make-up, make that end-of-the-world-urgent phone call before the show begins and save the other audience members the trouble of having to make room for you to shuffle out in the middle of the performance. Also, with some productions, the performers may enter or exit the stage using the aisles or doors. You wouldn’t want to be that guy who bumps into Chief Ajanlekoko Agbabiaka and his retinue of praise-singers as they make their way onstage.
- DO tame your big hair. It’s never fun being the one seated behind that person with big hair, especially if the venue doesn’t have sloping floors and amphitheatre-style seating. If you’re wearing big hair, try holding it down with a head-tie or a scarf. Also, do kindly leave the elaborate hats and head gear at home.
- DON’T heckle. Maybe you don’t know this, but performers have feelings too. So he’s not a Bimbo Manuel and she’s not a Joke Silva; still, try not to shout ‘you suck’ – or its semantic equivalents – at the stage. You can give the performer a piece of your mind after the show.
- DO keep the talking to a minimum. During the show isn’t the best time to predict the next plot twist or share your opinion on who would have played the lead role best. Anything besides the occasional reaction to the events in the play or quick and quiet comments to your neighbour can wait until after the show.
- This one’s for the Lovebirds: We know you’re gaga for each other, and we have absolute faith that your love will last for all eternity. But while you’re at the theatre, DO try as much as possible not to lean your heads close together. You are not conjoined twins, and the warm glow of your love will not be enough to comfort the unfortunate soul behind you whose view will be blocked by your joined heads. We know you heard that two heads are better than one, but this is one of those rare instances where they’re really not.
- DO keep them young’uns on a leash. Yeah, your kids are heartbreakingly cute and we sure know it. But nobody wants to watch them play hide and seek in-between the seats or listen to them whine or cry or say the darndest things, at least not while the show is on. If the kids get disruptive, take them out of the hall. Better yet, consider leaving them at home if the show isn’t for kids.
- DON’T fall asleep during the performance. We realise that in the dark it might be difficult to tell the theatre hall apart from your bedroom, but please try. And if you must fall asleep, for the love of God, do not snore.
- DON’T invade the personal space of other audience members. This includes leaning into your neighbour, hogging armrests and legroom and bumping or shaking the seat in front of you.
- DON’T eat noisy or strong-smelling foods or slurp drinks. Nothing is more annoying, really.
- DON’T litter. Not in the theatre hall, not anywhere.
So there’s my list. What annoying audience behaviour have you witnessed at theatres, and what etiquette rules have you broken yourself? Don’t worry, we won’t judge. Or maybe just a little.
-Uche Okonkwo (@ucheanne)