That’s disturbing

Let’s talk about bladders and other disturbing stuff! Are you sitting comfortably? Might be best to visit the toilet now, before we begin.

I was struck by the discussion about Bianca Jagger and whether or not she used flash to take photos at the opera. It doesn’t matter whether she’s famous. It’s neither more or less right for the famous to behave badly. And the way people use phone cameras or other digital cameras it’s often hard to tell if the bright light you see is flash, or simply the camera going about its business.

At the recent Joan Baez concert I went to, it said flash photography was not permitted, which I took to mean that photos without were fine, so I got my camera out. But after a while I felt the light visible when I used it was not acceptable to people sitting opposite me, so I put it away, and only got it out again at the end when absolutely everyone was taking pictures, with flash and everything.

John Barrowman

Daughter has been known to agonise over the legality of taking pictures at concerts. It often says you mustn’t. But people still do. I don’t feel there should be any ‘rights’ to images of someone singing on a stage. (Different for theatre productions.) What I do feel is that people shouldn’t disturb others.

The Guardian’s theatre critic Lyn Gardner reckons ‘people’s bladders have quite clearly got weaker over the last 20 years,’ and I know what she means, but suspect the answer is that they haven’t. What has changed is people’s habit of drinking indiscriminately at all times, regardless of what they are about to do, like go to the theatre. And also that they have got neither the instinct to try and ‘hold it in’ nor the inclination not to keep leaving their seats from – usually – the middle of the row.

If I have to ‘go out’ mid performance I tend to wait for a suitable moment both for leaving and for returning. I was a bit disconcerted at the National Theatre to find that the usher hovered anxiously outside the Ladies until I emerged again, and checked I was all right. Very caring and sensible, but I’m glad I didn’t know until then.

Went to the MEN arena for an S Club concert many years ago. Was startled by how the audience kept popping out for food and drink in the middle of the show. I suppose it’s the sports arena mentality, coupled with the sheer noise level at these events.

The understanding of what disturbs others varies from country to country. During Roger Whittaker’s concert in Cologne I waited for a song to finish before returning to my seat, only to have the usher urging me to just go in. She clearly thought I was stark raving mad for thinking of others.

And speaking of Roger; I once sat next to a woman, who was happily singing along to every single song. Having exchanged pleasantries on arrival, I felt it would be rude to complain, even though she was ruining ‘my’ concert. I thought if I asked her to shut up, I would ruin her evening instead. I gritted my teeth, almost cheered when Roger got to a song she didn’t know, and after the interval I asked the Resident IT Consultant to swap seats with me.

It is not always the audience who has mishaps, either. I recall the tiny St Paul’s chorister who was sick on stage and had to be bundled out by an older ‘boy.’

To get back to the bladders, it all depends on how long you have to sit through something. Films are frequently dreadfully long these days, with the added pain of too many commercials and too many trailers. With no interval necessary as cinema equipment improves, we simply have to pop out mid-film. And seeing as they want us to buy buckets of fizzy drinks, how can they possibly mind the running in and out? Nor is popcorn terribly silent to eat, and not odour free, either.

At least films don’t talk back to the audience when they rustle their sweet wrappers a little too loudly. Perhaps they should.

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