Having a bum night at ballet is the crutch of the matter
RATHER than pondering “to be or not to be”, theatregoers need instead to consider if it is nobler to suffer the bottoms or the groins of other patrons.
In other words, if you have to squeeze past other people to reach your seats, should you face them or face the stage.
This vexing question was carefully considered by our state parliamentarians last week. State opposition arts spokesman Walt Secord, who raised the issue, said he had been enjoying a performance of Sir Robert Helpmann’s Merry Widow at the Sydney Opera House last month when he “encountered this problem”.
“I am not referring to the glow of texting or chatting. I refer to whether one faces fellow theatregoers or the stage when crossing a seat to reach one’s own,” he told State Parliament last week.
Mr Secord said he had been seated in the middle of a row, resulting in a constant passage of people, which triggered discussion among nearby audience members.
Taking advantage of the remaining minutes of an adjournment speech where MPs offer their “observations on life”, Mr Secord posed to the question to MPs.
Quoting etiquette expert Emily Post, Mr Secord said the renowned 1920s American author ruled you should face the stage. “Emily Post ... said always face the stage and press as close to the backs of the seats you are facing as you can,” he said.
Her views are echoed by Australian etiquette authority June Dally Watkins in her seminal 2011 book A Guide To Australian Etiquette.
But magazine doyenne Ita Buttrose disagreed, arguing “one must face the patron”, Mr Secord said, adding: “I concur and that is my approach.”