The Playgoer: The Sin of Lateness

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Monday, January 10, 2011

The Sin of Lateness

"The problem with theatre, of course, is the inflexibility of its start time. Turn up five minutes late to a restaurant reservation and your table will be waiting, five minutes late to a film and you're still only up to the Volvo adverts, five minutes late to a gig and the band haven't even come on yet – but turn up even two minutes late to the theatre and you're greeted by the disappointed face of the usher which seems to say 'Where have you been? Look, the doors are shut – and behind those doors are literally HUNDREDS of people simply more competent at everyday life tasks than you.'"

-Guardian blogger, "Sans Taste" on the shame of late seating, as well as "the century-old battle between the performing arts and the human bladder."

Personally I always compare getting to the theatre to making a plane on time. Reminds us how unfun the whole playgoing experience must feel to the layman.

As for the human bladder, here's a tip.  Make sure you don't drink any liquids for at least two hours before your pre-show meal then make sure you hit the lav before your first drink at the restaurant.


John Branch said...

Sans Taste's comparisons are illuminating as far as they go. But others are possible. Arrive late for service at any sort of formal church and you'll be accepted (probably) but frowned at; the implication is you ought to take this matter seriously enough not to miss any of it. Which is much like the response he/she sketched for a theater. One might feel that neither the church itself nor the theater (nor the opera or other high-art performance) should be such a stuffy, stuck-up temple: "this is the age of casual, man!" On the other hand, why shouldn't a theater be entitled to expect on-time arrival, if that's the way it chooses to work?

I can go either way, casual or formal, but the disruption of a shared experience, whether in a church (which I never attend on my own anymore) or a theater, often breaks my attention. Rather like someone talking loudly in a quiet library. Which is why late arrival is frowned upon.

And there are other situations where arriving late just isn't smart: a job interview, a job itself, almost any other kind of business meeting, a birthday or anniversary with a spouse/lover/close friend... Not to mention the airline flight that Playgoer mentioned. It's not obvious to me, in the larger scheme of things, that being expected to observe the curtain time is an imposition.

Geraldine said...

I agree with the other comment that there are a lot of situations where being late isn't ok. I also wouldn't recommend arriving late at a gig!

That said, I once arrived at a theatre 2 min before its starting time, and the owner (it was a small theatre) was waiting at the door, and pretty much gave us a lecture about almost being late. I wasn't a happy camper that night, and I'll think twice before going back!