Spotlight: 15 Theatre Etiquette Tips We Wish Capetonian Audiences Would Learn

We absolutely adore the #lovetheatre lifestyle and spend more than half of our time soaking up the magical experience at Cape Town’s amazing theatres.


This does mean, though, that we are more often than not, exposed to the sometimes annoying, even cringe-worthy habits of our fellow theatregoers, leaving us less than impressed with the lack of good theatre manners. So honesty time, we actually just can’t take it anymore!


Here are 15 theatre etiquette tips we wish Capetonian audiences would take to heart … we’re begging please!


1. Getting up mid-scene to go to the loo/bar/for a smoke is just plain RUDE:


Guys and girls, this is LIVE theatre – as in the actors on stage can see you – and it is incredibly disrespectful of you to just get up and walk out like you’re at the cinema or in your living room during a dramatic scene or big musical number. Even more so when you’re seated in the front row of the theatre - yes, we’re looking at you, hipsters of Camps Bay. That craft beer can wait until interval!


2. Wearing shoes is a must:


Going bare foot to the theatre is not in vogue, nor terribly hygienic. And for the love of the theatre gods, do not put your dirty feet on the seat rest in front of you when other audience members still need to sit on them!


3. Be on time:


Being fashionably late is a right reserved for brides and birthday girls and boys. As an arts patron, not so much. There’s nothing more disrupting than a theatre door being opened and closed for late show comers, and the inevitable dozens of people having to get up from their seats to allow the latecomer to pass them by, because naturally they booked the best seats in the middle of the row in the middle of the theatre. If your show starts at 8pm, get to the theatre by 7h15 to avoid this travesty.


4. Crying babies and tantrum-throwing toddlers are best relegated to the back row:


We love little theatre-goers as much as the next girl but parents, if you know your angel is wont to having a mini-diva moment, please book your seats for the back of the theatre so that you can make a quick escape and not interrupt the show.


5. Don’t ‘drop’ your drink:


We know it is all the rage to be able to take your drinks into a theatre. Although we understand that, and we appreciate that it deters from people getting up to buy a drink mid-show (hipsters, see point 1), we beg of you to please keep your drink in your hands.


If you put it down, someone will inevitably kick it over and your neighbour sitting next to you will not appreciate the wet sneaker he/she then has to rock on the way out. Oh and if the theatre doesn’t de-can the drink all the more reason to hang on to your glass. Shattering glass of a knocked-over beverage is not a cool add-on sound effect.


6. This ain't no picnic:


Everyone has a cough every now and then, so we completely understand that a packet of Halls may travel with you into a show, but kindly please unwrap a few before the show starts or when people are applauding. There is nothing as horrible as the unwrapping of a sweet when a play has a pregnant pause or is building towards a dramatic climax. Oh and Sparkles should never ever be allowed in a theatre, you are not at a kiddies picnic.


7. It ain't no sing-along either:


Musicals inspire everyone to tap their feet and do a bit of a jig in their seat, and everyone knows at least one or two hit musical songs when walking in to see a grand production of this nature. But here’s the thing, they walk in to see (and hear) a grand production. They did not pay between R300 and R600 to hear you sing ‘Music of the Night’.


By all means, buy the soundtrack on the way out and sing to your heart’s desire in the car all the way home. We do that, and we do it with moves and dramatic facial expressions, to the great amusement (sometimes horror) of the car driving next to us.


8. Dress to impress:


The theatre use to be a place where you pitched up in a frock, short of a ball gown, or your spiffiest tux. So although we understand that times have changed and you can still look pretty darn sexy in your sneakers, jeans and jacket please do still take a shower and splash on some CK before heading out.


It is not pleasant sitting next to someone who smells like he was busy mowing the lawn and then realised he had to rush to get to the theatre. Yes, this aroma has indeed prickled our ever-so sensitive nose buds on a theatre evening out. And the people sitting on the other side of what we bet is a very pleasant individual, not so tactfully took a tissue to the face with a gasp. The reason for the shower is very much the reason for the shoes (see point 2), because breathing unfortunately is not optional.


9: Zero tolerance for caps, big hair and other viewing obstructions:


Guys and girls, this isn’t Kate and Wills’ wedding and you are not the Princesses of York – there is no need to wear a hat the size of Maria’s mountain in the Sound of Music, thus obscuring your fellow theatre-goers’ view of the stage and show.


Ditto to the patrons rocking an Afro or other sizeable hair-do – yes, it’s fashionable and we love it but no, we don’t want to be stuck behind it. Book your seats for the back row or sit on the aisle seat where you can move sideways to accommodate the people behind you.


10. Feet off the 'table':


The stage is not a foot stool or a coffee table. It is basically an actor’s desk. So seeing as you do not like someone plonking their feet or bum on your desk at work, kindly take your feet of the stage if you are sitting in the first row. Also there are no coasters on stage, that’s kind of a sign that it isn’t a table to place your drinks on either.


11. If you want to be on stage, audition:


Cape Town is filled with the most amazing small theatre spaces, and we totally adore these. What we don’t adore is the disrespect late comers (see point 3) show to performers by walking across the flat stage mid act, sometimes trying to exchange pleasantries with the performer as if they are part of the cast, blocking the view of the audience, and then taking their own sweet time to take their seat. Usually in the front row, go figure.


12: Put that cell phone away:


Really, do we need to spell this one out? What can possibly be so urgent that you need to take a call or answer a whatsapp message in the middle of a show?! There’s nothing more annoying than a glowing screen from the seat next to us when we’re trying to immerse ourselves in the actors and storyline before us.


Hear our heartfelt prayers and put your phone off or on silent, if you really have to, before entering the theatre. There’s this nifty invention called voicemail which will take care of those missed calls, we’re sure.


13. Don’t be a theatre drunk:


With most theatres rocking the best bars this side of the equator, grabbing a Cosmo, a beer or glass of vintage vino is a great way to kick off a night of thrilling entertainment – within reason.


Besides the inevitable glass shattering incidents (see point 5) , we’ve seen our fair share of audience members falling up and down theatre staircases and being extremely rowdy during shows, thus breaking the concentration and flow of the performers on stage. Go ahead and toast to a great night but take Marc Lottering’s advice on this and have “everything in moderation”.


14. Slay your inner Puff the Magic Dragon:


Smokers or those trying to quit have been on an e-cigarette mission lately and we applaud you for your efforts to cut down on your packet-a-day habit, but that doesn’t mean you can suck on it and have the vapours billowing into our faces at an intimate theatre venue. Most theatres have great designated smoking areas which we’re sure you’ll find pleasing during interval.


15. Sharing is caring:


It is an absolute dinner theatre no-no to leave your fellow theatre patrons to foot the bill after you’ve snuck out during dessert. Yes, this happens! With Cape Town embracing the theatre as a lifestyle approach more and more with the added pleasure of a great dining experience, wveryone who enjoys the delights of a taste-bud-treat during or before the show must be willing to pay their way, unless other arrangements have been made before the time. This includes pitching in for a tip. Your waiter works for a living, serving you is not a hobby. Never mind etiquette, running away from paying your dues is just wrong, plain and simple!


We’re sure we’re not the only ones with some theatre pet peeves and etiquette tips … share yours with us on Facebook and Twitter or send them to us at We’d love to hear from you!



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