As a child, growing up in Lincolnshire, far from any theatre other than Lincoln Theatre where we used to go to the Pantomime every year, theatre productions were very excitig to me. I used to often think about the future - would I ever go to a 'proper' theatre in a big city like London - and how very exciting it would be. (now I am back in The Dales - a similar area, far from theatre life).
But luckily, moving when my son was six to Lichfield did put me within reach of the theatres in Birmingham - only fifteen miles away and with a good train service.
The first theatre experience was to go and see a Janacek opera. The Cunning Little Vixen'. I went with a group of friends and my husband too of course - we were all musicians and the opera was a wonderful experience. But the thing i remember most and the thing we would talk about afterwards whenever we thought of it, was an incident in the Second Act, when the man in front of my husband suddenly jumped up and ran out of a nearby door. My husband, being the man he was, jumped up and followed him out into the empty lobby, only to find him collapsed on the floor saying 'I think I am having a heart attack.' My husband ran and got assistance and phoned for an ambulance and waited by the side of the man, holding his hand and trying to keep him as calm as he could until the ambulance arrived. I didn't follow but of course until M returned I really couldn't concentrate at all as to what was happening (together the two of us did go back to see the opera again several years later).
I was reminded of the experience this morning by a short piece in The Times about how theatre audiences behave badly these days. Clive Davis, the writer of the piece, talks of how while watching 'A Street Car Names Desire', just at Blanche's 'emotional meltdown' a nearby man opened a bag of sweets and started munching them. And how he once sat next to somebody who kept checking his mobile phone throughout the performance, He also remembered that he was once at the theatre when a women in the audience started heckling the actors so much that the performance had to be paused.
I thought back to once going to Stratford to see 'Coriolanus' and one of the two friends I went with kept shouting 'Pardon?' when he couldn't hear what the actors were saying. (I could have gone down a mousehole and hardly remember the play at all).
I once went alone to the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London to see and hear Andras Schiff play Bach's Goldberg Variations - the performance was absolutely wonderful but ruined for me by a woman about three rows in front who throughout moved her whole body in time to the music. It was extremely annoying and when the performance ended the man actually sitting behind her gave her a right rollicking saying she had ruined his evening.
Clive Davis says how badly theatre audiences behave these days. It is a long time since I went to the theatre but I did wonder if there is a correlation between how one dresses and how one behaves in the theatre, In my theatre going days we 'dressed up' to go to the theatre and treated it as an 'occasion'; nowadays people seem to wander in wearing 'any old thing' - I wonder if this affects how they choose to behave. Have packets of crisps and plastic buckets of pop corn become the norm?
I think I once read how Laurence Olivier stopped in the middle of the performance and addressed somebody in the audience about his behaviour.
What do you think if you are a theatre-goer?