Who’s Afraid of Food in the Theatre?

Recently there’s been a touch of controversy in theatre land concerning food and etiquette, this time due to one show in particular banning the act of eating during performances.

This isn’t the first time London theatre has been in the papers because of etiquette, it seems that when a big name is in a show it easily happens, but I can’t remember the last time it caused this much of a stir! I’m seriously late to commenting on it but knowing me, I had to put a word of opinion in, because it’s me.

Imelda Stauton is currently performing in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf at the Harold Pinter theatre which is owned by ATG, one of the theatre companies who have actually rolled out an initiative to make snacking in the auditorium easier for audience members. However, for this show they’ve asked audiences to refrain from eating during the show due to the nature of the show. 

While some are angrily agreeing that food should be banned during theatre performances, others are empathising and suggesting this attitude can alienate regular folk into making them feel as if they’re not worthy of visiting the theatre – two very contrasting opinions.

With the Orditorium scheme you’re able to pre-order drinks and snacks via an app that will then be delivered to you in the interval, saving you the trip to the bar. An interesting concept, and while I certainly don’t envy the front of house staff having to orchestrate this during an interval, I also know that sometimes things don’t go so smoothly and have heard of orders being taken out during the start of act 2 of shows due to overwhelming demand, which I know would annoy me!

One side of the argument that I’ve seen online recently is that shows are on at an awkward time, when you’d normally be eating dinner, and while I understand this logic the easy counter argument is that if you know you’re going to the theatre, surely you’d plan to eat earlier or arrange to have dinner just before the show? 

Last year while Game of Thrones star Kit Harrington starred in Doctor Faustus, there were reports of audience members bringing in McDonald’s and eating full meals during the show, which I think is absolutely awful. It’s hot food which will make it smell more, plus it’ll be in a rustling paper bag, and that’s before the eating noises have began! When you pay a lot of money to go to the theatre, the last thing you want is someone chowing down on a McDonald’s next to you. Trust me, I’d be fuming. 

So, is it the influence of celebrities or known names being in shows that brings in a new audience who aren’t used to visiting the theatre, or is there a decline in etiquette across the board, with theatre companies encouraging audiences eating during the show by selling popcorn, bags of sweets, crisps and more? 

I think this is a really interesting debate especially when you factor in the argument that regular theatregoers being frustrated by noise and eating during shows could be putting off members of the Joe public from going to the theatre, inciting the sense of elitism in the theatre community.

I totally disagree with that, but perhaps that’s a conversation for another time! 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, would you happily munch away on a snack in the theatre during the show or does it drive you mad?


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