1. Set malfunctions
At the recent Mikhailovsky Ballet Giselle (pictured), Judith Flanders described how two pieces of hanging ivy “spent much of Act II going up and down like a bride’s nightie”, distracting from the Queen of the Wilis’ impassioned solo. When you’re wondering if a piece of set will fall over or how much the stage manager has been drinking, it’s hard to appreciate the sincerity of a performance.
2. Big hair
Why does the person with the beehive always sit in front of us? If you’re tall, we appreciate there’s little you can do to avoid blocking the view of other audience members (apart from sitting in the back row). But if you’ve got the same hairdresser as Marge Simpson or Jedward, be a doll and wear a hairband.
3. Mobile phones
An obvious one, but annoying none the less, even if you’re only tweeting. This one even annoys the actors. “I am asking you to stand up, leave this auditorium, and never, ever come back,” boomed the late Richard Griffiths during an interrupted performance of The History Boys. Hugh Jackman concurs.
Screaming children are bad enough. But what is more annoying is when mums and dads loudly explain the plot to their little angels, or attempt to answer the impossible question, “why is the performer doing that?” (Erm, because that’s what the director told them to do.) It’s noisy, unnecessary and worst of all, the parents frequently don’t have a clue what they’re talking about.
5. Short intervals
You know the feeling – you’ve pushed your way to the bar and then queued for ten minutes to be served. And just as you go to take a sip of your lovely overpriced wine, the bell rings and the show’s about to recommence. And guess what? No drinks allowed in the auditorium.
6. Costume/prop problems
When there are laces undone, ripped dresses or straps falling down, it takes attention away from the performance. Similarly, when a prop is dropped onstage, we spend the whole time watching it in case the poor ballerina in the big tutu trips over.
7. Sweet wrappers
The sound of someone trying to open up a sweet wrapper is agonising. Especially when we have forgotten to bring any sweets ourselves.
Clearly TfL are mostly to blame. But what is even worse than arriving late, is when people have the audacity to sit and fidget for ten minutes after arriving, taking off their coat, finding their mobile phone, jangling keys and whispering to their friend. If you’re late, you could at least be quiet.
9. Excessive curtain calls
We love showing our appreciation, honestly. But sometimes, the performers end up curtseying for longer than they performed. Don’t they want to go home? We do.
In The Two Pigeons, two live birds are used onstage to represent the ballet’s lovers. But it’s hard to believe your protagonists are truly happy when there’s a misbehaving pigeon flying around. As the saying goes, you should never work with children or animals. And you should definitely never put animals onstage. If they do things wrong, they steal the show. And if they do everything right, they steal the show anyway.
11. People who get annoyed at people getting annoyed
“Hush!” says the irritated theatre-goer to two chattering people in front of him. “Will you stop hushing people!”, demands the lady behind him, “I’m trying to watch the show”. Someone tuts behind her. Before you know it, there’s a Mexican wave of admonishments sweeping round the auditorium. We get really annoyed about people getting annoyed at other people getting annoyed.
Pictured: Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev in Giselle. Photo © The Mikhailovsky Theatre