Monday, January 21, 2013
When I began acting in dramatic productions at Oxford, it was a fixed principle that the curtain went up at precisely eight minutes after the advertized time. It was explained that those who were punctual would accept that delay, whereas the perennially unpunctual would almost always have made it into their seats at that time. I went along with the system, but I chafed at the idea. I much prefer it when the curtain goes up on time. Fortunately, many theaters, including the tiny Aurora Theatre (yes, they use the British spelling!) to which we have subscribed for many years, have a place where latecomers can hear the play. They are allowed to take there seats at the first intermission--but many plays are acted without an intermission, or are written with a long first act. This isn't really a problem for us, as we take good care to arrive in plenty of time. I dislike long intermissions, especially when the seem to be dragged out to sell more refreshments. In the UK, when there was an inordinate delay, the waiting audience would sometimes break out into a song, featuring only one short lyric"Why are we waiting?" Another expression of irritation which I have occasionally heard in the U.S, but which was more common n the UK when I lived there many years ago, was the "Slow Clap". We would clap our hands in unison, allowing about two seconds between claps. It was a sort of unspoken form of sarcasm. Occasionally, it would induce an explanation for the delay, such as a car breakdown delaying a soloist or essential actor. It was easier to tolerate the delay when there was a good reason for it.