Imelda Staunton has recently divided opinion by saying she thinks food and drink in the theatre should be banned. She cited the noise it creates as a distraction and wondered why people were unable to sit for an hour or two without the feeling the compulsion to eat. Are her comments fair? Is she right?
Many people enjoy an interval ice cream and so they may well disagree. Personally, I agree with Staunton. One of the annoyances of the theatre is hearing rustling papers or crunching crisps. The point of a live performance is that you are transported to another space, another world and become absorbed in a story. Any noise outside of the world on stage takes you out of it and breaks the illusion. Theatres are designed to carry sound so even when you think you are being quiet – you are not.
Will theatres be inclined to listen to opinion and ban food? I doubt it. The mark up on the products provides too much revenue to miss out on, revenue which goes to the running and management of these old and aging buildings.
What is the solution? Perhaps producers will offer the occasional opposite to relaxed performances, a performance where food and drinks are banned to illuminate the unnecessary distraction. Failing that, courtesy should prevail. After all, you wouldn’t go to work and sit in a meeting eating kettle crisps and giant buttons, so why would you at Imelda Staunton’s place of work?