Why do people walk out of theatre?
Think about this: how many times have you seen people walk out of a cinema mid film? How many times have you walked out of a cinema mid film? How many times have you walked out of a theatre mid show, or seen others do it?
I have a theory. People generally don’t walk out of a cinema. The film has to be pretty excruciating for that to happen. It wouldn’t bother the actors, and the film won’t stop playing. You have no agency – your actions will have virtually no impact – and you’d struggle to get a refund (unless of course you go to see The Artist at The Odeon ).
But people do walk out of theatre. Even though there are living (generally) people up there on the stage – the actors, who could be mightily offended, people walk out if they don’t like the performance. In fact, people not only walk out, they make a point of walking out.
At Ben Elton’s Popcorn, many years ago at The Empire, a whole row in front of us walked out five minutes after the second act had resumed. It was as though they had come back in after the break simply to walk out in full view of the actors. Admittedly, we followed them five minutes later. The play was awful- full of actors shouting each line, etc.
I think it happens because we regard cinema, essentially, as a passive experience, whereas we regard theatre as active, some thing in which we feel engaged, something we can have an impact upon. And it’s true. Like in a live concert, performers and crowd can create a unique atmosphere within a theatre unlike anything that can be achieved in a cinema.
And that is the power of theatre – at its best almost life-changing. At its worst, well, who knows, no-one sticks around to find out.
I have to be honest, a swarm of butterflies arrived in my stomach at some point last night, and I think is planning to stay until Friday at least. Sister flew in from Hong Kong yesterday, which is truly lovely of her, and in a way I think that has added to the nerves. There’s no reason to be nervous, really, I have confidence in the play itself, the actors couldn’t be doing a better job and the set, and everything connected with it, is superb. But then I’ve never been here before. Sure, I’ve done other stuff, but this, along with Steve, is really a unique occasion, and a very live one too. And maybe that’s were the worry really lies (see above!).