In my column last Wednesday, I devoted a few lines to two recent experiences in which chatty spectators annoyed the people around them, if not directly disturbing the shows I was at. I seem to have struck a very sensitive chord.
Many of you have written to tell me that you notice that this phenomenon is increasing and that it exasperates you to the maximum. Some have even told me that they no longer go to the theater or the cinema because of it.
I said that during the show. For a one-night stand, a clamor came from the bottom of the track a few minutes after the start of the show. A man and a woman, glass in hand, refused to sit down and conversed noisily. When the spectators sitting behind them asked them to be quiet, they responded by spraying them with the contents of their glasses. Someone went to look for the security guards who escorted the rebels to the exit.
As a pathetic moment, it is a summit! You go to a show hoping for magical moments and are attacked by drunk and obnoxious strangers.
Because the problem with these people, whom entertainment professionals call “toxic spectators”, is that they do not accept being called to order. A reader told me that he kindly asked a female viewer to stop texting during Sting’s show. The brightness of the screen bothered people sitting near it. The young woman snubbed the viewer.
Of course, we could blame the alcohol that we can now consume in the rooms. But I think there is more to it than that.
We witness a loss of civility, a kind of ignorance of the notions of ritual that surround a show. These viewers, who grew up watching television, no longer know how to behave in a theater. They think they are in their living room.
They act as in the days of the Elizabethan theater where the spectators drank, ate, and talked with the actors during the performance. The problem is that the codes have evolved.
A reader told me about the disaster she experienced when she went to see Patrick Bruel’s show at the Théâtre St-Denis (note that tickets are $90). She had the misfortune to find herself behind two parents who had had the idea of bringing her 4-year-old son. For two hours, the boy did not stop moving, talking, or going from one parent to another. Hell!
Going to see a show is now an expensive outlet for many people. Tonight becomes the “event” of the year. This moment belongs to you. The rest no longer exist.
We could probably start with a sociological study and dissect this phenomenon by analyzing the type of public, the show, and the place (I am told that the chat is very present in the Casino de Montréal). But another experience leads me to believe that it is not necessary to venture into this field.
Recently, during the OSM concert with Daniil Trifonov, I experienced something surreal. We had just made the famous announcement inviting people to turn off their cell phones and everything else. The pianist has begun to play (the piece begins very softly). And there a lady opened her bag and took out a candy which she slowly developed for endless seconds. The whole room could hear the sound of cellophane. It looked like a humorous ad for Vicks pills.
Did this woman know that she was destroying magic and imposing her presence on 2,000 other people? Human nature fascinates me as much as it saddens me.
What I deplore in the attitude of these speakers and other outsiders is that they kill what the show has to offer: the symbiosis of a crowd. I like to laugh, I like to be moved, I like to be teased and pushed. But I want to feel that at the same time as everyone else. That’s what we look for when we go to see a show. Otherwise, you could also hide at home in front of your aquarium.
Theaters and concert halls have found original ways to remind us of etiquette before a show. After cell phones and candy, will viewers now have to be told to refrain from talking during the show? I think we got there!
In 2019, the association of professional show promoters RIDEAU and the Society of Composers, Authors, and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN) organized a conference entitled Excuse me, is the program disturbing your conversation? That says a lot about the scope of this problem.
The “toxic bystander” phenomenon has become serious. It is time to stop it. Otherwise, the entertainment industry is likely to suffer.
Have you recently had a “toxic bystander” experience?
#Talkative #Spectators #Shhhhh