Don’t kick the seats and switch off your smartwatch: Guardian critics on how to be a better audience member | Culture | The Guardian

Talking, heckling, boozing: post-pandemic, it seems that some people have forgotten how to behave at events. Fortunately, our culture writers are here to help

Don’t talk during the opening credits Not talking during the film should be a given. It is OK to talk (quietly) during the ads and it is similarly OK to talk (even more quietly) during the trailers. But the microsecond the film starts then you shut up. The credits are not like two football teams warming up before kickoff. The credits are part of the film. Auditorium Seating Refurbishment

Don’t kick the seats and switch off your smartwatch: Guardian critics on how to be a better audience member | Culture | The Guardian

Do not kick the seat in front of you, or even press your knees against it It’s amazing how many people don’t understand what not kicking the seat in front of you means in practice. Actually kicking the seatback, from a seated position close behind, is almost impossible. What we mean is do not jam your knees against the seatback so the person in front is shoved forwards as if in the world’s least enjoyable funfair ride. Do not do that.

Do not use your phone light to search for empty seats if you turn up late When we are watching the film, we don’t want to be dazzled by someone standing in front of the screen, raking the auditorium with their phone light, as if looking for escapers from Stalag Luft III.

People sitting next to the aisle: don’t roll your eyes when someone wants to get past You are sitting on the aisle because you want an easy getaway at the end. But the trade-off is that you have to either get up or bunch your knees to the side, with smiling good grace, when people want to get past – and it will be a lot of people. Do not behave as if their behaviour is unreasonable.

Please finish your crisps before the film starts It is OK, within reason, to eat popcorn during the film because the crunching isn’t that loud, but crisps are different. Stop the crunching and rustling the second those opening credits roll. And don’t try to “stealth eat” them with individual bites during loud sections because that is distracting, too. Also if you or anyone you’re with has gone off to get more food once the film has started, and come back with armfuls of Diet Coke and nachos in the darkness, please be considerate and don’t spill them into the laps of other people you’re climbing past to sit back down. Peter Bradshaw

Stop fake laughing It might come from a place of generosity – sending out a reassuring signal to actors, making an effort to add to the atmosphere – but forced laughter is obvious, and en masse it has the ear-piercing sound of a road drill.

Don’t dawdle Standing stock still in the middle of the lobby with your companions, especially after the bell has gone, obstructs others trying to get to their seats. The pre-show bustle is all part of the excitement but not when there’s a wall of bodies refusing to budge.

Stop clapping so much I mean, after every song at a musical ... It’s not Pop Idol. I have seen actors freeze and wait for it to end before they can get on with the next scene.

Put your smartwatch on dim It’s annoying to see them beaming around the auditorium every time someone moves a wrist.

Skip the booze A tipple is all part of the ritual of theatre-going for some. But many of the rounds being bought at interval scrums are shocking – along with the rise in noise levels. Knock back your booze in the pub afterwards. It’s cheaper, and there’s no risk of partying too hard in the aisles, either. Arifa Akbar

Read the programme This isn’t etiquette exactly, but enjoyment. Ballet can be baffling, and those mute swans aren’t going to tell you what’s going on. Programmes are pricey these days, but you can do your research and read the synopsis online beforehand for free, and gen up on who the dancers are, too – it’s amazing the difference that can make.

Leave the drama onstage It’s surprising, the self-righteousness that can break out in the stalls. The guy who tuts and shushes the poor person having a coughing fit and ends up causing more disruption than the cougher. Don’t be that person.

Wear what you like A ballgown’s fine, jeans too, and anything in between. There are all these ideas about ballet being elitist, and it’s just not true. There is an argument you might enjoy yourself more if you make a night of it and put some gladrags on, but straight-from-work attire is fine. There’ll be no one at the door with a clipboard looking you up and down. The ballet is not Berghain. Lyndsey Winship

Don’t accept the audioguide Galleries and museums want you to engage with their art yet are often the worst enemies of this, offering devices that tell you what to think. There’s a huge loss in letting these infernal voices get between you and the art. Look with your own eyes.

Have tolerance Kids making a noise in the gallery? It doesn’t mean they are not looking and learning. Couple talking too loud, bloke being odd, woman looking at her phone? They all have their reasons. Enjoy the gallery your way, let others enjoy it in theirs.

Ignore the wall texts Intrusive over-didactic texts are all too common and can include such stupid, arrogant statements that they wreck your mood. My advice is don’t read them. If you need information beyond the artists’ names, title of the work and date, look it up later.

To interact or not to interact Artworks that invite you to climb or get on a swing or, God forbid, speak to an actor can be oppressive. They started in the 1960s as artists questioned institutions but are now sometimes institutionalised themselves, making you feel you have to take part in a corporate idea of fun. Don’t participate. Just walk away.

Do not attack the art As may already be clear, I don’t find public behaviour in galleries particularly poor. I love the peaceful pleasure so many of us take in looking at art. But please, please don’t vandalise art, not even for a noble cause. It’s the wrong place and the wrong way to protest. Jonathan Jones

Stop, think: how much space am I taking up? At gigs, most audience transgressions boil down to issues of space. You can forestall frustration and make the evening more comfortable for everyone by considering how you stand, the volume of your conversation, not carelessly pushing past smaller people, or unleashing elaborate dance moves.

Don’t bandsplain You do not need to spend an entire song droning on to your companion about when the track was first recorded, who played third tambourine or providing a detailed analysis of the lyrics. Just listen.

Freshen up You’re going to a public event in an enclosed space where you will be in proximity to others, so act accordingly: wash, wear deodorant, tone down the aftershave, brush your teeth, and – for the love of all that is holy – keep a check on bodily emissions.

Set your phone considerately I’m not going to tell you not to use your phone – I don’t care if you want to take a terrible photo of Mick Fleetwood – but I am going to respectfully suggest you turn down your screen brightness (the glare jars the mood) and set devices to silent (the alerts ruin the torch songs).

Go easy on the refreshments As a general rule, once your vision is blurry enough to wonder whether this band now has more than one bassist, you have gone too far. What’s more, drunkenness at gigs lends itself to space-taking, phone misuse, droning on interminably and all manner of odorous behaviours. Remember: there is no shame in ordering a pint of tap water from the bar. Laura Barton

For the authentic Proms experience you need to stand Skip the sitting and join the moshpit. Hardcore Prommers queue up each day to buy tickets to stand in the arena. The sound is apparently very good there, too.

Be sure to arrive in plenty of time for your concert Lavatories are few and far between at the RAH, so if you don’t want to suffer through a whole concert with an uncomfortably full bladder, leave enough time to go searching, and be prepared to queue.

Join in with the shout of “Heave!” whenever the piano lid is lifted It may be one of the more inexplicable Proms rituals, but the regulars seem to enjoy it. Andrew Clements

Lighten up Don’t fold your arms. Don’t look so glum. As Mr T famously (almost) advised: “pity the fool”, that poor schmuck onstage sweating dreams to make you laugh. Give them a break. Unfold your arms, unclench your jaw. Turn that frown upside down.

If you sit in the front row, you’re asking for it There’s no use avoiding eye contact. That ship has sailed. You’re in Row A, you are fair game.

Don’t upload jokes to social media I mean: don’t. To comedians, jokes are money, and posting their jokes online is, er, theft. And even worse, it’s people like you that make the rest of us have to seal our phones in impenetrable synthetic pouches if ever we now go to an arena comedy show. (How am I supposed to check the football scores?!)

Don’t kick the seats and switch off your smartwatch: Guardian critics on how to be a better audience member | Culture | The Guardian

Classroom Furniture Tables Don’t whoop I recently got married / had a baby / won an award, the comedian may tell us. Well done you. We’re British. Don’t clap. Don’t cheer. We’re not American. It’s a standup show, not a love-in. Don’t heckle – unless, er, it’s OK to heckle Heckling – the cut-and-thrust of audience-performer backchat – used to be what made standup unique. Nowadays, it’s frowned upon by acts who do not wish their art to be sullied. But not by acts – such as James Acaster, with his new show Hecklers Welcome – who do. How can we know who’s who, and what’s what? The rule: read the room, and don’t be a dick. Brian Logan