Thursday, 12 February 2009

Lights, Camera, Distraction: Three Days of Rain

It's quite a crucial few moments, the start of a show in the theatre.

Three Days of Rain (reviewed here) starts with a solo speech from James McAvoy as Walker, but I struggled to take it all in at the opening. There's lots to focus on: set, accent, character, script, and so on.

The reason: some girly muppet, two rows in front, was continuing to read / check / email / blog on her blackberry throughout the scene. The lights from any electronic equipment, be it phones, silly light-up watches (does anyone have these anymore?!), and especially crackberries can really distract in a dark auditorium. It drives me mad.

She wasn't holding it still, either. So: a very bright light, waving around, right in my eyeline, really distracting. I started (unkindly) to feel a tut welling up inside me, harshly judging her as a non-theatre-understander, someone who'd paid to see the celebs not the play, that classic irrational stranger-hate developing, just like the commuting on an over-crowded train feeling.

Finally, a girl on the same row as her did a loud, excuseme-canyouturnitoff-please, and everyone's shoulders relaxed as they all allowed themselves to become absorbed by the action on stage.

I know the counter-argument goes "Shakespeare's lot performed while people were wandering around, chatting, trading, pimping, blah, blah, blah." However, the people next to me could well have paid £4o each for their tickets, and whatever Will's men did, we've been trained to sit quietly in a dark space while, traditionally, the stage and all its brilliance is illuminated in front of us.

So I'd prefer it if audiences around me were able to be uncontactable, degagetified, and switched off while the actors onstage work to turn us on.

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