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Black Tie optional
When to applaud, which armrest of the chair is meant for you and which one for your neighbour, how to enter the row of seats when everybody is already sitting and much more.
Do you know Murphy? Well, he doesn’t exist, really, but you will certainly agree that his law does, and how! His basic law broadly states that things will go wrong in any given situation, if you give them a chance. We can feel its impact daily and discover its hidden meanings. This normally applies to performances as well. People of less than average height are bound to find a basketball player sitting in front of them in theatres. When you arrive just in time, you can be sure that your seat is located in the middle of the row so that everybody will have to stand up in order to let you pass. And vice versa: when arriving early, your seat is always at the far side of the row and you will have to stand up for everyone who comes after you.
We can imagine Murphy as a Force Majeure ceaselessly interfering with people’s plans. Mere mortals will never be able to stop him, but we can occasionally deceive him. During performances, for instance, we can trick him by being polite, considerate and well-mannered.
The victory is Murphy’s if you are a basketball player, sitting in front of a jockey. But ladies or gentlemen wearing broad-brimmed hats (not a very common decoration, nowadays) can easily leave them in the cloakroom – thus Murphy is to be left out in the cold.
Atishoo! Bless you!
And talking about the nose… When you’re sniffling, sneezing and coughing, even if you are able to do it brilliantly to the rhythm of the music – you should think carefully about attending. Your special effects will thrill nobody. You should instead take an aspirin, make some tea and spend a nice, comfortable evening at home. This is the fastest way to recovery without the risk of passing on your cold to half of the hall. Naturally, you sometimes have to cough during performances, even if you are perfectly healthy. Try and do it as silently as you possibly can.
Everybody attending a performance comes in order to listen to performers on stage and not to the audience. Therefore, kindly switch off your mobile phones. Please show consideration towards others.
Allow our neighbour to enjoy the comfort of his/her seat and do not occupy both armrests of the chair; according to the rules of etiquette, the right armrest belongs to us and the left one to our neighbour.
Conquering the seat
When having to make your way to a seat in the middle of the row, do this with your face turned towards the people who have risen from their seats. It is not appropriate to turn your back to them even if your dress is especially plunging at the back and is showing your beautiful tan. The words thank you and sorry are highly recommended. Especially words of apology come in handy when your late arrival disrupts the enjoyment of the audience and when – god forbid! – you step on somebody’s foot. You can take it for granted – these two magic words will be an antidote against grumbling and black looks.
Not only vampires detest garlic
When attending a performance, do not rely solely on air conditioning but avoid eating garlic and onion, or similar “fragrant” herbs before the performance. Your immediate neighbours will appreciate it, as they will be kept from fainting.
If you are tired, you should sleep at home and not during the performance. Drowsing is truly not disturbing for others – unless you rest your head on your neighbour’s shoulder or even fall off your seat, but snoring can be a nightmare.
You are kindly requested not to bring small children to concerts of classical music or longer events. They will be bored, restless, tired or sleepy. By calling a baby sitter you will make a number of people happy: your children, the other spectators and finally yourselves, as nobody will be tugging you by the sleeve during the performance and asking: when are we going home? It is better to enjoy the show and take the children to the zoo, puppet show or a trip on the following day. They will have plenty of time to attend evening events and symphonic concerts when they grow up.
It is not advisable to attempt to demonstrate your knowledge by expounding critical analyses or by constantly consulting those in your company - people behind you wish to admire what is happening on the stage and not listen to your rhetoric skills. Why not keep your impressions for sharing during the break or after the performance.
When The Rhythm Gets You
Enthusiastic admirers! Do not beat the rhythm of the melody on the seat’s armrest and do not hum the tune in order to impress your neighbours. This especially applies to classical concerts – the rules for more modern genres are not so rigid, as the performers often invite the audience to clap and sing along. That is a good opportunity to express your emotions!
Life is sweet
Programme leaflets can be studied before or after the performance and there is no need to rustle them during the performance. The same goes for unwrapping confections and other sweet temptations. If you cannot live without them, you should at least select those less noisy and avoid eating them during classical concerts. Do not be beguiled by that horrible commercial plugging crispy biscuits… crunch! The whole hall is staring at you. And you are a cool dude! In the commercial - yes. But in real life? Try it, if you dare.
You can be even more “daring” if you change your seat into a bar and slowly sip your drink during the performance. After you have emptied the glass, you reach for the bottle under the seat and refill it, possibly even clinking glasses with the fellow drinker next to you. When suffering from thirst, it is better to go to a pub or stay at the bar in the lobby. Rather than wasting the ticket, you should give it to someone who is thirsty for art and not for liquids.
When you are not familiar with the work being performed, it is better to wait for the others to start clapping. At concerts, one applauds at the end of the composition and not after each movement. At the opera, one rewards the singers with applause after a finished aria. At jazz concerts, it is appropriate to applaud after each well-performed solo. It is suitable to applaud at the end of theatre performances, when the curtain is lowered, although it can be very flattering for the actors if they are rewarded with applause during the performance, and the same goes for awarding the best actors with especially loud applause after the performance. With ballet and dance shows, we applaud the dancers for especially exquisite performances after each scene as well as at the end, when the curtain is raised and lowered dramatically.
Always and everywhere! Let us show our respect to the performers by being moderate in showing enthusiasm as well as dissatisfaction.
Clothes? They also help us to express our respect – towards the performers, the audience but also towards ourselves. Nobody feels at ease by being over- or underdressed. In the good old days a black tie for men and an evening dress for women were de rigeur for all evening performances except for film screenings. Today, the rules of fashion and dress codes have become considerably more relaxed. However, it is better to wear something more formal than a tracksuit and trainers for a visit to the theatre. Nobody will ask us to leave the hall when we appear dressed like that, but we will definitely be criticised by other theatre-goers.
Let’s try to create a sense of occasion by being polite, respectful and courteous! Then, nothing will go wrong!