As part of ArtsBeat’s weekly Theatre Talkback column, David Fox wrote an article about booing in theatre performances.
For the most part Fox seems to be against booing actors onstage during a performance. He suggests alternative methods of showing your lack of enthusiasm for the production, like not clapping at curtain call.
Personally I think booing during a performance is just about the worst thing a person could do to another person. But, Fox does make the point that the only reaction available to us as paying audience members shouldn’t be a standing ovation.
This article made me think about all the people who walked out of Ma Rainey when I saw it a few weeks ago. While most of the people who left that performance were loud and incredibly indiscreet, I am not opposed to tactfully walking out of a performance if you are no longer invested in the story. I think that if you paid for the ticket, and you can leave without seriously disrupting other patrons, then there is no reason you shouldn’t be able to leave the show if you don’t like what you are watching. I mentioned the people walking out of Ma Rainey to a few others in the following weeks, and most of them were shocked and almost disgusted. Am I alone in thinking it is ok to leave if you don’t like the show?
Having said this, I also have to add that I have never walked out of a show, even if I wasn’t interested in the play. But I think that has to do with the solidarity I feel towards other theatre makers. I want to support them, even if their art is boring, at least they are making something. And I would hope to receive the same kind of support in return. But for a person who is not invested in theatre as anything other than entertainment, shouldn’t they be allowed to leave?