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London Theatre Etiquette – London Theatre Attire and Dress Code

London Theatre MasksTheatre Etiquette – suggestions that are open for debate

When visiting a London theatre, one of the most important things to consider is that the performance is not just for you! All of the audience would like to enjoy the show! The cast also would like to be able to perform without distractions from the auditorium.

There are moments to treasure during any performance and for you and everyone around you to enjoy those moments PLEASE consider others!

In order to make everyone’s experience enjoyable here are some suggestions as to what is acceptable.

  1. Arrive at the theatre in good time as latecomers always interrupt others in the audience and on stage
  2. Switch OFF mobile phones, pagers, and wristwatch alarms before the performance begins
  3. It is NOT acceptable for you to be texting, tweeting, emailing, or using your mobile phone during a performance as using your phone WILL be a distraction to others due to the light and you using it
  4. The recording of a performance or part of a performance either by audio or video is ILLEGAL!
  5. Please do NOT talk (loudly or excessively) during performances as it is disruptive to those around you
  6. Unless you are invited to sing along by the cast, DON’T!
  7. You should not eat or drink during a performance – do it before the show or DURING THE INTERVAL – that is what the interval is for!
  8. IF you MUST eat a sweet to raise your sugar levels then avoid unwrapping sweets from crinkly packets or eating ‘crunchy’ sweets
  9. Don’t put your feet up on the person in front of you – you are not at home
  10. If you must go to the toilet then do it before the show starts or during the interval or after the show has finished
  11. Standing ovations should wait until the curtain call unless audience are ‘invited’ to stand by the cast
  12. Please do not take your shoes off as it can be unpleasant for others
  13. Try and sit fairly still as there will probably be someone behind you who is trying to view past your head
  14. Please respect other people’s space as seating and leg-room in theatres can be limited
  15. Applause at the end of a show should be for ALL of the cast and musicians

If you have problems at the theatre then talk to an usher who will if necessary contact the House Manager to assist you to resolve any issues. If you are still not satisfied then contact the theatre management head office the next day (the address will be in the programme).

Remember, theatre is to be enjoyed by EVERYONE!

London Theatre Dress Code

With regard to a London theatre dress code, as such there isn’t a strict code of dress. Your London theatre attire should generally be ‘smart-casual’, or casual. When you are taking a London theatre UK trip, whether a matinee or an evening performance your clothes should be appropriate for the occasion at any of the London theatre venues.


  • Neil Cheesman

    First becoming involved in an online theatre business in 2005 and launching londontheatre1.com in September 2013. Neil writes reviews and news articles, and has interviewed over 150 actors and actresses from the West End, Broadway, film, television, and theatre. Follow Neil on Twitter @LondonTheatre1

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17 thoughts on “London Theatre Etiquette – London Theatre Attire and Dress Code”

  1. 16. Do not shout ‘speak up’ at the cast because your hearing aid is not turned on/up/ battery run out.

    I completely agree with all of these points. The theatre experience can be amazing, but can quickly be spoiled by inconsiderate patrons. Instead of enjoying the show, my attention is focused elsewhere, ruining the performance. It’s also so very disrespectful to the cast, how would you feel if you thought an audience were here to see your performance, but instead a few members spent the whole show watching though a tiny glowing screen?

  2. I think 7 and 8 should be bumped up to 1 and 2. MAJOR theatre bugbear! There’s always at least one person in the audience who thinks the experience will be enhanced by chowing down on something crunchy, opening and scrunching wrappers like there’s no tomorrow.

  3. Great blog post. I think I’ve come across everyone of these in one form or another. Food & sweets seems to be a standard bad behaviour in every show I go to see.

    I would also add – don’t leave during the curtain call (unless an emergency, of course) – it’s not the cinema. The actors have just spent 2 – 2 1/2 hrs entertaining you and if you’ve stayed that long you must have been at least enjoying it a little bit. At least give them the courtesy of applauding this effort. (Yes, I have seen this happen)

    Also, a point about number 10. If they really, really can’t hold it in, I would rather they get up and go to the toilet than wet themselves in the seat next to me :p

  4. Spot on:
    I just don’t understand why theatres sell packets of sweets – or if they don;t then checks in handbags etc to ditch them if they’ve been bought elsewhere and brought inside! At Les Mis last ight, during Fantine’s death, oh yes – several of us could hear the rustling of sweet paper.. GRRRR.

    Also – another bug bear is to get back to to your chair in time before the 2nd half starts!

    Another also: ‘Why do you have to cuddle up together and kiss throught the performance..! Especially after paying what you have for a seat to enjoy the show.

    Great blog by the way. I’m just a regular theatregoer and maybe am just more sensitive to the surroundings now and understand the etiquette to allow me and others to enjoy theatre.))

  5. Got it spot on there, particularly 7 and 8. At Blood Brothers in Sunderland there was a group of teenagers behind me eating CRISPS and always managed to choose the quiet/emotional scenes to eat them in. Have witnessed all of the above recently, although perhaps as I go more often than I used to, I’m becoming more sensitive to it.

  6. Coughing is another problem, if you have a bad cough/cold then please dose yourself up before going to the theatre. I understand if you have tickets and have been looking forward to the show you don’t want to miss it due to a cold, but take some tixylix first!
    I remember Patrick Stewart giving someone a particularly hard stare during Hamlet as the auditorium was starting to sound like a TB ward.

    I don’t understand why theatres now sell bags of sweets either, people passing a bag of Minstrels around/waving the pack at their friends to ask if they want one can be very distracting to those around them.

    I also agree with Jaclyn, is is SO rude when people dash off before the curtain call, show your appreciation by applauding the people who have just given their all to entertain you for 2-3 hours, not my dashing out to get a good spot by the stage door for autographs.


  7. Siobhan O'Shea

    So agree! On my birthday in January went to see Phantom of the Opera and the people behind me talked all the way through the show. Literally all the way through! Very annoying! Why would anyone spend £60-£70 for a ticket and spend the whole time chatting? What is the point? Apart from anything else it’s so disrespectful to the cast and other audience members who actually want to watch the show. My irritation was further compinded by the moron in front of me who was unable to sit still for longer than 5 seconds and I spent the whole time moving my head from left to right in order to try and see the stage. I was in an aisle seat and at one point was leaning so far right I almost fell out of my seat! What is wrong with these people?!!!!

  8. Totally agree with all the above points. Particularly those regarding phones, texting, tweeting, emailing, facebook etc. Unbearably rude and distracting!

    It would help if this etiquette were repeated in other languages though because without sounding politically incorrect, I find a lot of the worst offenders to be tourists! They’re by no means they only offenders but it should be addressed.

    NB It is my intention to produce the finalised “Theatre Etiquette” in various languages (Neil)

  9. It’s very easy to criticise people for being late. Believe me nobody does this on purpose especially considering the cost of tickets. I myself was recently late to a Les Miserables show and we were sitting on the front row. I was so embarrassed but the reason was we stopped to help a lady who collapsed on the street and waited while the ambulance came.

    If it’s a choice between being prompt for a musical or being a good Samaritan I’m sorry but I will always choose the latter.

  10. Teenagers giggling at things they find uncomfortable to watch. Then talking about it. (I had one sitting behind me in Frankenstein at the National. The first 20 mins was Johnny Lee Miller naked. Superb physical theatre. Terrible audience etiquette).

  11. How about children in the audience? Some are as good as gold, and I have no quibble with them, but some are, to paraphrase Elphaba, “squealy little brats”. I was at Shrek recently, which I know is popular with children, but the ticket does say no children under 4. The one behind me must have been two at the most. She kicked the seat, cried, squirmed, and was obviously far too young to understand the show. The mother and grandmother were totally oblivious to the discomfort of everyone around them.

    Other incidents which spring to mind:

    The start of Act Two of Othello with Lenny Henry at the Trafalgar Studios (not the largest of theatres, you will agree). A woman phoned her friend, after the actors were back on stage, loudly saying, “where are you? it’s started.”

    Then there was the picnic during the Lion King – they couldn’t even wait until the interval and started passing the sandwiches around.

  12. I agree with them all, and I agree with all thats been said here so far. I have not gotten around to read it all i must admit so ill post mine here too.

    Do NOT sell CRISPS at the theatres. There was a kid chewing on them like crazy last time I saw Phantom Of The Opera. UGH so annoying! My mom was also wondering why they even sell that there!
    And eating sweets, with annoying rusteling paper? C’mon eat it in the break, or atleast dont open it till you know there is a clapping sequence from the audience!
    Not in the Middle of Bring Him Home or Little Fall Of Rain in Les Mis!

    I have had to pee during a show before but I do wait til the break or the end! And I often get thirsty during the shows, but open the water bottle during the applauses! It is really easy to follow these “rules” wich should be obvoious to everyone, if you just use your head a little..

    I have alot of other annoying examples but I do belive it is all stated in the article above. Great points / rules and they should hang on big boards in every theatre!

  13. People who answer their phones are extremely annoying!!! I went to see Mamma Mia and the lady next to me answered hers and talked really loudly for 10 minutes.It was very rude.Every theatre goer should follow these rules

  14. Numbers 5, 6 and 10 particularly resonate with me. My enjoyment of Crazy for You last week was severely dented by the chatterers, one of whom made me get up before the end of the 1st half so she could go to the toilet. This then prompted – 30 seconds later – a man needing to get past so he could be first at the bar for interval drinks!! There was also a lot of singing along in certain numbers; I don’t pay £60+ for a ticket to listen to members of the audience perform.

    I tend to agree that tourists are the worst culprits (Phantom of the Opera audiences in particular), although it must be said that the culprits mentioned in the paragraph above were all badly-behaved Brits.

    I have another bugbear to add: talking during musical interludes. Audiences seem to behave as if the performance hasn’t started if there’s nothing going on on stage. The entra’cte at the start of Act 2 of Love Never Dies was always marred by high volume chatter, not helped by the house lights being left on until part way through the number, although it’s still unforgivable and rude. I feel so sorry for the orchestra having their one and only bit in the spotlight ruined.

  15. When I went to see West Side Story in the Bristol Hippodrome a couple of years ago my Dad decided he wanted to eat his jelly babies during the rather romantic bit before Tony’s death. I honestly could have punched him..

  16. I agree with all of this. I witnessed someone humming to bits of the Music of the Night last night at Phantom in Manchester. John Owen Jones sung it perfectly but it ruined by a woman who felt it was necessary to hum to bits of it!!

  17. Sarah Forrester

    1. when getting ready for a trip to the theatre ..have consideration for the person behind you and dont go for your favourite back-combed up-do !
    2. have a bath or at least spray yourself with deodorant
    3.if you MUST take sweets unwrap them and place in a plastic container ( why are these not supplied by theatres .. they could use the plastic cups from the bar ?

    The only one I do not agree with is waiting for a standing ovation until the end – I have been to several shows where a performer was so outstanding that the entire audience felt compelled to stand mid performance !

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