Top 11 Theatre Annoyances

By Laura Dodge Last edited 63 months ago
Top 11 Theatre Annoyances

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.

4. Parents
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.

8. Latecomers
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.

10. Animals
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

Last Updated 22 April 2013

Hugh Jarse

What drives me wild is pricks going on during the interval about how wonderful Annabelle is in the part. Annabelle isn't wonderful! Juliet or Lady Macbeth or Ophelia is.

Watch the play. Not the actors.

Steve Mielczarek

Number 12 is when the back of your theatre seat gets kicked repeatedly by the "mortal" behind you.

Melon Filbert

jangling bracelets


why don'
t we all just have our own island-its difficult to believe we are supposed to be social animals!


Unreserved seating. Means you have to queue half an hour before the show starts. Aaarrrggghhh!!!


No leg room is up there for me. Nothing worse than a sore bum and numb legs for two hours

Janet Ellis

People who either hum to the music or finger tap the rhythm on the armrest.


Americans not used to British theatres etiquette who whoop and clap every time someone they have heard of walks on stage before they have even said a single thing. It's not only annoying for the audience but extremely rude to the other actors they have not whooped about trying to carry on regardless.

Fiona Laverty

I waited 50 years to see Les Sylphides. Finally managed it at the Coliseum with Moscow Ballet only to be stuck next to a Japanese tourist taking photos throughout the performance with his motor drive constantly whirring. Grrrrrrrr

Francesca Fenn

People who sing along - or hum along - to the numbers. Have experienced this through a whole performance of Messiah - except the 'Amen' when said person escaped, presumably to avoid being lynched!