Badly behaved theatre audiences

Disclaimer: I don’t know which theatre this photo is from but © Mark McQuade/Flickr

I have worked in a few theatres now across Scotland; backstage as a dresser, upstairs in marketing and, most importantly for this post, front of house as an usher, bartender, host and waitress. I will say that the current theatre I work FOH in is a particularly large one and so the likelihood of finding that small proportion of people who misbehave becomes so much higher and therefore we feel like we get the worst crowds sometimes. The thing about it, though, is that it genuinely is just a few ‘radgies’ that ruin the rep of the entire audience who (even in a baaaad show) 80% of are just getting on and watching the show.

This is not a stuck up rant about how people just aren’t classy or snobby enough to know the theatre etiquette daaarling, this is just about straight up common decency and consideration for the people around you. Most people buy theatre tickets as a treat, a special occasion because those  2-3 hours of entertainment cost way more than your Netflix subscription, but the experience of being at the theatre is worth a wee night out. However our society has become so individualistic (and often pretty selfish) that lots of people in the audience don’t consider their fellow patrons. You wouldn’t believe the kind of behaviour we see in the theatre sometimes. Ranging from severe drunkenness (no, dear customer, we do not have any shots on the bar, it’s a frickin’ theatre), to full on brawls in the audience, during the show (literally why? If you must fight then please just leave). It can be downright dangerous at times and thank god that we have security to back up our FOH staff. I will stress that these occasions are the exception rather than the rule, but we’ve had an exceptional show in recently that brought out the radgies so it’s on my mind.

I just don’t get why you would spend money on a ticket to the theatre and then spend your time at the theatre pished drunk and not remembering what’s happened on stage, staring at your phone and distracting not only the audience but also the performers and not seeing what happens on stage. It’s wasteful and disruptive, like if you don’t care about the show, there’s no need to spend your money AND ruin everyone else’s experience. Also for the love of god why do people need to pee so much?! Like I understand it’s a basic biological function that you can’t really control and for each individual it’s just a singular mid-show toilet trip but as an usher it feels like a never-ending stream of people in and out of the auditorium which can be very distracting for others.

The thing that is difficult about these disruptions is that they can be difficult to control because even as ushers or security, we’re still not puppet masters for these human beings. If they’re too drunk the chances are that they got that way before they came in because it is expensive to get drunk at a theatre bar, we do refuse service to people who are past it but even if we banned alcohol in the building, people would still rock up drunk and we’d make £0. For the rowdy lot, our security have to work hard and often toss people out of the building during the show which is a shame but to get to the point where you’re being chucked out, you’ve probably done something disruptive and the damage is done for the people around them. We can’t throw people out before they do something wrong so it’s annoying when that goes down and people complain the staff should’ve done more…when we can’t really. We don’t ignore rowdy people because if we did, we’re not doing our job. As much as I wish we can ban people’s phones, we can’t but we do give them a telling off for using it during the show and we will have our hawk eyes on the audience looking out for the chancers who think that’s okay – it is not.

You can ask anyone FOH for their most shocking and horrific stories from working in a theatre and I bet you they have some, I have more ridiculous ones but I think they’re too specific to share on here. The point is, FOH may seem like a lovely, easy and beautiful job to do and for the most part it is, but sometimes you get shafted and abused at a 10hr day on your feet and it can be intense and disappointing. To the radgies I say: get your shit together or don’t buy tickets plz, and to the majority of audiences that are well-behaved I say: thank you! We’re trying our best to deal with the other lot!

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