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Theatre Etiquette: Should Eating be banned in Theatres?

As an avid theatre-goer I am becoming more aware of theatre etiquette - the things you do, and the things you don’t do while watching a show.

Theatre Etiquette: Should Eating be banned in Theatres?

Imelda Staunton had argued that eating in the theatre should be banned and her new show ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf’ at the Harold Pinter theatre has become the first West End show to request that patrons not consume food during the performance. They still sell food and drink, but simply ask the audience to enjoy this before the show and during the interval. Although there are a lot of mixed feelings about this ban, I think that there should be more advice to theatregoers about what behaviour is acceptable.

Here are 5 reasons that they might be on to something:

1. One of the most distracting things as a member of the audience is when the people sitting around me are rustling sweet wrappers, crunching things around in their mouths or cracking open a can of fizzy drink, especially during a particularly intense or important part which is when it is most noticeable.

2. If it’s distracting for audience members, imagine how hard it must be for the actors to keep focussed when they can hear rustling of wrappers or crunching of food.

3. Some food really smells. Crisps, peanut M&Ms etc are all extremely tasty, but also extremely smelly and for some people, this smell can become overpowering – I once sat next to someone who cracked open a Satsuma during a performance; while I’m happy to see someone eating healthily, those things have a very strong smell!

4. There are always those who will take it much too far, an example of this was given by theatre producer Richard Jordan who experienced a group of people eating entire McDonalds meals during a show, talking and taking photos. This sort of behaviour is truly unacceptable and really makes me wonder what made them think that this was okay.

5. Alcohol shouldn’t be consumed in excess in the theatre, how can people enjoy a show when they are so drunk they can’t remember it? And more importantly, tipsy people seem not to have awareness of the volume at which they chat, and one way to get on my blacklist is to interrupt a great show. Obviously for some people sitting for long periods is difficult and for medical reasons people might need to eat or drink which is of course completely understandable; I would never dream of trying to make them feel guilty because of this, I’m sure I’ve been sat around loads of people who need to do this and they have been so discreet that I didn’t notice.

Here ends the rant, I’m sorry if I’ve offended anyone with my ramblings, but this is something that I do feel strongly about. I really love going to the theatre and have paid a lot of money for the fantastic experiences I’ve had and it is just so frustrating when I can’t fully enjoy this when the people around me are talking, walking around or making a lot of noise. I’m not sure if I agree with banning food and drink completely, but I do think that advising people not to eat during the production is a reasonable thing to ask.


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Written by
Lauren Philpott
7th March 2017
Updated: 13th November 2017