A Gentleman’s Guide to Theatre Etiquette
“All the world’s a stage”, as the Bard once wrote, and a gentleman must never underestimate the importance of playing his part on every occasion. More so when there is an actual stage with real actors on it who are trying to remember their lines and embody someone else for your entertainment.
Art is a public service and should be accessible to all but, if we are to co-exist and share in the magic for a couple of hours, we may as well agree on a few basic etiquette tips to keep us sane.
Theatre manners: All you need to know
1. Don’t follow the crowd
There’s something for every taste so you don’t need to choose the show that’s all the rage. If you don’t want to get picked on, avoid front row seats in a stand-up comedy and, if you don’t want to pretend to be taking part in a Roman orgy, avoid immersive renditions of Caligula.
2. Seating plan
Stalls, dress circle, upper circle, gallery. Ticket prices depend on the level of elevation and distance from stage and a gentleman will gracefully accept the view that his choice of ticket affords him. Moving to another seat just because it’s empty or complaining that your “restricted view” ticket actually comes with restricted view is quite unacceptable.
3. Theatre attire
Most theatres don’t implement a dress code but do check in advance. Regardless of rules, a gentleman will carefully select what to wear in the theatre out of respect for the artists, more so during opening nights, special performances and when opting for the fanciest seats in the house. Our lounge suits collection is just what you need to stand out and blend in.
4. Personal belongings
In the run-up to Christmas, many people combine a day of shopping with an evening at the ballet (the Nutcracker, of course). However, many theatres do not offer a cloakroom service in which case you shouldn’t impose your luggage or bags on the people around you. Check before you shop.
5. Be on time
Queues for bag inspection or ticket collection are fairly standard so allow enough time to have a drink at the bar and take your seat on time. Although a gentleman is never late, traffic makes no allowance for gentlemen so, if you miss the start, you will only be admitted when the usher identifies a suitable moment.
6. You are not part of the performance
Don’t make a spectacle of yourself. Chatting, engaging in intimate displays of affection, using your mobile phone or taking up both armrests may distract the actors and audience. And, for the love of whatever you hold dear, do not sing along unless encouraged to do so. Let the professionals handle the high notes.
7. Can I just squeeze past?
Never draw attention away from the stage unless it’s an actual emergency. E.g. if the play is awful but everyone stays put, then you should just hold it together until the interval. On the other hand, if you suffer from a coughing spasm, it’s best to apologise and make a dignified exit but at least try to reach the end of your row without turning your back (and other parts of your anatomy) to the people you are inconveniencing.
8. Food and drinks
A 4-hour interpretation of Russia’s complex social structure in the 18th century may call for chocolate but can you really unwrap it without making any noise? Then again, if it’s vodka you are craving, you can always pre-order at the bar to avoid queueing at the interval.
9. Show your appreciation
Applause is expected at the end of each act, after a notable scene and at the end of the performance. If you are unsure when to clap, just wait for someone else to start. Standing ovations and loud outbursts of “Bravo, bravo” are mostly reserved for the ballet and opera but, if you ever come across such un-British expressions of emotion in the theatre, it means the play was exquisite. Or people are really happy it’s over.
See? Nothing to worry about. All you need is good company, a well-selected play and a limited edition 3 piece suit from our London collection to make a success of the evening. For more tips on etiquette, visit our blog page or sign up to our newsletter to have one delivered weekly to your inbox.