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Being British at the theatre

After a long absence, I’ve started venturing back to the theatre. I love the experience of watching a play but going to and being in a theatre creates all sorts of anxiety and awkwardness which seems to have been amplified by the time away. Based on some recent excursions here are my top anxiety-inducing situations as an audience member.

1. Rehearsing your side of the confrontation you’re going to have when someone tries to tell you you’re in the wrong seat.

2. Seeing someone you know in the lobby while waiting for the house to open, and running out of things to say after ‘hello, great to see you’. There’s only another 10 uncomfortable minutes to go.

3. Paying the equivalent price of a bottle of wine for the single glass you purchase at the Concession stand that invites you to pay what you can. “That’s very generous of you, are you sure?” No, absolutely not but too late now.

4. Confidently putting your phone on silent mode, then losing all confidence in yourself as you take out your phone and switch silent mode off and then on again, and then off and then on again. Just to be sure. And maybe one more time for safety.

5. Being friendly and cheery the first time you stand up to let people past you on your aisle. Feeling dangerously stabby by the fourth time. Especially if they don’t say sorry and thanks multiple times.

6. Never ever ever feeling comfortable saying ‘break a leg’ to a performer, but doing it anway and then praying that you don’t add ‘not literally though!’ in a jokey tone.

7. Letting someone else buy your ticket and finding yourself in the middle of an aisle rather than your preferred easy getaway end of the aisle seat closest to the exit.

8. Judging the lazy people who don’t stand up to let others go past and just swivel their knees to one side.

9. Feeling smug about your view of the stage until a very tall person sits in front of you. Debate moving to another seat that’s open but leave it too late and spend the whole time matching your head turns and tilts to theirs to be able to see.

10. Wondering why, when you see someone else in the audience that you know, you wave at them like a five year old. And then realise it isn’t the person you thought it was.

11. Fear that you’re making weird eye contact with one of the actors even though you know/ hope they can’t really see you through the stage lights.

12. Telling people that you enjoyed the ‘dark comedy’ aspect of the script to try and cover you being the only one to laugh at what you interpreted as a funny line.

13. Panicking when you hear someone else’s phone start ringing in fear that it’s actually yours.

14. Fearing the quiet, dramatically silent moments on stage in case you lose all impulse control and shout out ‘he’s got a poncho on’ like you did when you were eight.

15. Feeling embarrassed when someone shouts out ‘bravo’ at the end of the performance.

16. Getting anxious before the show starts over the will they/won’t they standing ovation question.

17. Oh god, one person is standing up. Are others going to? Should I? Now?

18. Being uncertain about how long the standing up part goes on for, and whether it should be followed by sitting down for a minute and then leaving, or just leaving from the standing position.

19. Wishing you could wait around to congratulate the actors but fearing that in the moment your oh so eloquent response might come out as ‘you were great’. Instead, dash out of the theatre as if summoned home by demons and compose a more eloquent email response from there.

20. Hearing the usher/box office person say “enjoy the show” as you enter the theatre and being unable to stop yourself from responding ‘you too’!

4 thoughts on “Being British at the theatre”

  1. “Love this so much,” said the knee swiveller as she slunk away into her murky hole. But seriously… so completely read my mind. These are brilliant!

  2. These are hysterical, Maggie! I confess I don’t have all these thoughts, but they certainly are likely to come up! Hope you are doing well and staying so very creative and delightful!

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