Two hours of sound check and tech rehearsal. Countless hours of rehearsals until you are sick of every song in the show. Yet every night you still paint on that smile and make the set seem fresh and exciting for yourself and your audience. Half an hour pacing in the wings waiting for your cue to go onstage, feeling sick to your stomach from nerves. Fears of what if they don't like me? What if the speakers don't work? What if my mic cuts out? And a thousand other thoughts. Every song lyric missing from your memory as panic starts to set in, yet trying to breathe knowing that muscle memory on stage will bring it all back to you. It always does.
Then suddenly there it is!
That golden moment!
The stage is yours!
You slam on stage for the opening number. Lights blasting in your eyes, its hotter then Hades up here. The audience is packed in tightly, looks like a sell out room. You belt out your opening two numbers back to back with barely even a moment to breathe in between. Fast songs, get the party started right. Get the audience up and dancing!
The finale chord fades and you stare out into the packed room to see the reaction, breathing heavily. Nothing, absolutely no reaction. The room is silent apart from the sound of phones and texting. Oh snap chat me! This new edit is the bomb! Everyone is chatting among themselves ignoring the fact you are even there. The people on barrier look like they are bored to death. Oh wow look! Two people at the back of the room are clapping. You thank them silently in your head for actually caring, feeling slightly defeated. You ramp up the act, pulling out all the stops you can think of. Trying to win them over and yet at the interval the audience is still barely luke warm. You finish the second set and go back to your dressing room thinking why did I even bother?
Sadly this is becoming the case more and more that artists are being treated this way by a selfish, self absorbed, entitled, phone obsessed generation who think of nothing but themselves!
I regularly attend concerts and theatre productions (both small theatre and west end). Lately I have noticed a horrendous change in people’s attitude to the cast. Acting like they are bored, chatting during important points of the show. Pointing thumbs down and laughing about it knowing full well that the cast/performer can see them. Thinking that it is funny to drunkenly scream out you are sh@t during a heart felt scene. Or worse sit on the barrier texting non-stop ignoring the band performing just inches in front of them. Cutting off the band's connection to the audience completely ruining the night just because they can not put their frigging phones down for an hour!
When I attended Wicked in October there was a girl across from us taking calls during the show. When the usher told her to turn it off, she put it to vibrate/flashing light. Which was even worse! All we saw for the second act was a bright light coming from her bag that she refused to close because she might miss an important call. Completely distracting those nearby from the show. If she is waiting for a call so important then don't come to a theatre!
Even more annoyingly when I attended Vampires Rock Ghost Train, a large group of the centre 3rd and 4th row stalls came in after the lights went down as the show started. So we could neither hear nor see the whole opening section which sets up the entire show. Explaining what has happened to bring us from club Live and Let Die to the now Ghost Train, including the death of Pandora.
This pig ignorant group was not done with their rudeness, oh no. One of them spent the entire night taking hundreds of flash photos on his camera. So every few seconds all those around him saw flashing light from it. Blinding to the cast as well as annoying all those trying to enjoy the show. The person I was with actually walked out because she couldn't take it anymore. The usher told him to stop it, and he said no. I wish they had just thrown him out.
At Kinky Boots West End last week I had my coat on the back of my chair, it wasn't touching the floor or anything apart from my chair or me. The person behind me screamed (yes I do mean screamed!) at me to move it. I thought oh it must have dragged don the floor after all. Oh no, she wanted to put her coat on the back of my chair instead. As well as spending the entire night kicking the back of my chair no matter how many times I asked her to stop it. I have a back problem which this causes a lot of grief to.
When did we as a society become to self involved that we started to think we are the only person in the world who matters?
That we are the queens/kings of the universe?
That it is permissible to do what the hell we want, when we want and screw anyone else? Even if it means ruining someone else’s evening? Even if it means a gig is cut short because the band gets annoyed with the crowd? Even if it means countless wasted hours of practise for the cast? Hell I admit I often hate the shows or bands I go to see, but if I am stalls or barrier and can be seen I damn well clap along, cheer and respect their artistry. It takes a hell of a lot to get up there and perform. Artists like Adam Lambert, Richard Meek, and others have spoken out about this on stage and gained hate for it. I fully support them! They have the right to turn around and say pack it up or leave! They shouldn't have to, YOU should have the manors to act in a manor that is suitable for the event without having 'mom' come and tell you to sit nicely!
So, next time you go to a show or a gig. Get there early, go to your seats on time and turn your phone off! I promise you that the world won't end! Don't take pictures, it is against copyright laws. Show respect to the cast as well as your fellow audience.
You never know, you might actually enjoy yourself.
Before you ask or comment oh the stars should be pros and deal with it. No they shouldn't and yes I do know how distracting it is. I have also performed on stage.
Sarah Beth James