Leaving in the interval: Should theatregoers do it?

I love the whole experience of going to the theatre and would quite happily see a musical or a play every night of the week, but barring a lottery win, that’s not going to happen. Instead I have to settle for as many visits as my time and money allow, so when I do get the opportunity to go, I make damn sure I get the most out of the experience.

This is why I don’t really understand how other theatre-goers can bring themselves to leave at the interval. It happens more often than you’d think. Many times, I’ve been to see a show and noticed empty seats around me at the start of the 2nd Act that were previously occupied, and from time to time, I’ve also seen comments on social media sites from people who’ve complained about a show being so bad or boring or whatever, that they’ve had to leave early.

The simple response here would be to say that there’s not much point in staying when you’re not enjoying it, and I understand that – to an extent. Maybe the issue is with the cast, or the show itself, maybe you were offended by the content…whatever the reason, I find it hard to understand having such a problem that the only option is to leave. First off, it’s quite an insult to everyone involved in the production to simply walk out; as someone once said to me, it’s the equivalent of sticking two fingers up at them all. Would you attend a dinner at a friend’s house and go home half-way through the main course? No, of course not! Secondly, if the 1st Act failed to impress you, shouldn’t you at least stay and give it a chance to change your mind in the 2nd Act?

Imagine only listening to half an album before deeming the music artist’s work a flop, or watching half of a film at the cinema before heading home to tell everyone you know it’s not worth going to see. How can you make an informed decision on something without seeing it through to the end?

I didn’t get the chance to see the stage musical of From Here to Eternity before it closed in the West End, so when the recorded performance was aired on TV over Christmas, I decided to watch it. The show had mixed reviews from its run at the Shaftesbury Theatre, with some lamenting how boring it was while others loved it and were devastated by its early closure, so I was intrigued to find out for myself which side of the fence I’d fall on after watching it. The 1st Act failed to make much of an impression on me to be honest. The story moved at a slow pace and the lengthy scenes of dialogue made it feel more like a play with a few songs thrown in…I didn’t hold out much hope that it would make a fan of me by the end, but I stuck with it and I’m glad I did. The 2nd Act was a big improvement; the story moved along more fluidly and there was a lot more going on to hold your interest, as well as better and far more memorable songs. By the end of it I’d been converted, and while From Here to Eternity isn’t ever going to rival the likes of The Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables or Once The Musical as a favourite musical, I did enjoy it and was glad I’d taken the time to see it. If I’d paid to see it on stage in the West End, I wouldn’t have regretted buying that ticket.

Now, if I had gone to see it in the West End and left in the interval, I don’t think I would have the same opinion of it that I do now, having taken in the production as a whole rather than judging it by the 1st Act alone, and that is my point here. Even if you’re not enjoying a show, surely it’s far better to stick with it anyway and see where it goes, waiting until the end when you have all the facts you need to make a final decision? I really think so.

Aside from that, nights out at the theatre are not cheap. A seat in the stalls will typically set you back around £70, with some going even higher, and I cannot fathom how that alone isn’t enough to make someone stay for the entirety of the production. Maybe that doesn’t bother some people, but me personally, I would stay simply to get the full worth of what I’d paid, regardless of how good or bad the show was. I’ve seen some shockers, let me tell you, but not once did I contemplate leaving before the end.

Theatre is all about variety, a show to suit every taste. Every creative decision in a production carries risk with it, and with any show, it’s never going to be everyone’s cup of tea. You have to take the good with the bad though. If any theatre-goer wants to leave in the interval, or course that’s their choice, but one bad experience can be enough to put someone off for life, and the way I see it, every show deserves the chance to redeem itself in the eyes of an unhappy audience member.

By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25

Thursday 14th May 2015

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