We English can be a rather passive aggressive lot, particularly when it comes to the world of etiquette and manners.
This is taken to extremes when you are in a theatre. There are rules of behaviour, and then there are theatre rules of behaviour.
Andrea and I are draconian in our adherence to and dissemination of these rules. The day my mobile phone went off in a theatre was the day I seriously considered harakiri. I was MORTIFIED.
We are great believers in the following:
No rustling of sweets. We particularly hate those people who think if they unwrap a really crinkly piece of cellophane slowly it will make it better. It won’t.
No crisps. Ever.
No flexing of water bottles/plastic cups etc, so that you have something to do with your hands. Having the ‘scrunch/scree’ of a mangled water bottle in your ear for three hours – unacceptable as Super Nanny would say.
No crunching the ice that is melting in your plastic cup. You sound like you are munching through metres of loft insulation.
No big hair. Or hats. Or enormously fat heads.
No whispering, particularly not in that way where everyone in the entire fucking stalls can hear you explaining something to your wife, even though she understood it perfectly but you were so tickled by it you had to say it again.
No using the programme as a fan indiscriminately so that you are swiping it into my field of vision every fifteen seconds. If you must fan, fan carefully and in your own space.
No pointy elbows that loll into other people’s seating area.
No talking while the play is on unless you are about to give birth/expire/have noticed a lone gunman in the Royal Box.
No phones. Just no.
So, you see, we are really fun to be with when we go out to the theatre. Really fun.
We know we are miserable bastards, but when you have paid a frankly insane amount of money to have a once in a lifetime experience, having someone sitting next to you whilst they are eating barbecue beef crisps in between picking their nose and checking their text messages is not conducive to getting your money’s worth, or indeed, breaching the fourth wall.
We are much more relaxed about getting into and out of the theatre, and what you do at half time is frankly your own concern. You can strip naked and swing from the chandeliers as far as we’re concerned, as long as you’ve got it all out of your system by the time the lights go down, have at it.
One of the laws of the theatre is that people who have seats in the middle of a row are always the last to arrive to be seated. This happens all the time. Everyone knows it. The people getting to their seats must apologise profusely whilst bumping into knee caps and making eyebrow to eyebrow contact with the people they are attempting to sidle by. The people who are seated have to decide whether to stand up for the incomer, or do the side half crouch with knees balanced carefully atop each other.
On Saturday we had middle row seats, so by the time we got into the theatre we had to do the ‘sorry, sorry’ walk. It was fine until we got to a couple of very well groomed, chic, elderly ladies who were in our way. One of the ladies in particular took great affront and sighed, and tutted and raised her eyebrows at us.
We took our seats. Next to me were two other empty seats.
These should have been filled from the other side of the theatre, but two people walked in a couple of minutes after we had taken our seats, and started to do the ‘sorry, sorry’ walk down our side of the row. I assumed they were going to fill the two empty seats.
The lady who had not been happy with us, was equally undelighted with them. If looks could have killed they would have dropped on the spot.
They got to the empty seats and checked their tickets against the seat numbers. Then they turned round and checked ours, looking confused.
Quite often people get their rows mixed up. We were in row D. We wondered if the people had got the right row. We entered into discussions. Nope they were definitely in row D. The angry looking lady was looking on in deep displeasure at the sort of people who mess up their seat allocation.
We all looked at the tickets. Then we checked the seat numbering. Then we looked at the angry lady. Then Andrea and I looked at each other in delight.
It turns out that the angry lady and her companion were in the wrong seats.
They should have been in row C.
The seats they should have been occupying were directly in front of them. The whole of the rest of row C was seated. The curtain was about to go up.
Angry lady’s companion took it all in good part and scrambled over the seat to take her place with minimal disruption to all. Angry lady stood up, looking really, really angry and rather sheepish. Andrea stood up and offered to help her climb over the back of the seat.
Angry lady turned to face Andrea directly with a look of utter horror on her face:
‘Young lady. I do NOT climb ANYWHERE.’
With that she had to do the ‘sorry, sorry’ walk of shame all the way back down row D and half way up row C, and made it to her seat just as the curtain rose.
It was beautiful.