We’ve (sorta) got past the stage when people are still using their mobile phones in theatres. When people do get their phones out and light up their faces with that oh so distracting, blue light people have now been conditioned to give them a gentle shoulder-bump or, for multiple offenders, a tut. While some shows get a free pass for phone use; maybe a folk show (albeit sparingly) or live music gigs, just make sure you’re not ruining it for everyone around you.
However, one thing seems to have been given a pass of late; The smartwatch.
As someone who works both on stage, back stage, and front of house, the smartwatch is equally as annoying as the smartphone. It may not see like it, but those small, twinkly screens, brightly shining out with the date and time, and distracting.
People fidget. I do it, most of you will. Sitting dead still for a 2 hour show isn’t something I expect of you. You’ll get an itchy nose during the first act, maybe you’ll raise your hand to cough, and you might even have a bottle of something nice too which you’ll want to occasionally sip from. Normally, the performers can barely see the audience let alone these small quirks of body language. We don’t mind the odd bit of a fidget or rustle, as long as you’re not distracting us too much or pissing off those around you.
Now imagine all those actions and gestures with a small, bright LED fixed to your wrist, beaming out in the darkness. We see it floating around in the darkness, illuminating your face when you scratch your nose, reflecting through your bottle when you take a drink. Your coughs become light and dance shows of their own, I’ve even seen light bounce of phlegm as it left a mouth.
Not only are the bright, small lights annoying, but we seem to forget that these are attached to phones. Directly. They have the ability to show message, calls, texts, emails. No one turns their phone onto aeroplane mode, and as much good it is when they put their phone on silent and turn the vibration off, most smart watch users are so used to the screen on their wrist they forget to change its settings. So when they do inevitably get through a message from their whatsapp group chat about what Giles has done with Clarissa and how angry it’s made Minty, their little watches light up for a flash. Looking out from the stage it’s like watching the mating dance of tiny squid, flashing their tentacles about to attract a mate.
For the love of all that is holy, don’t wear your SmartWatch to the theatre. And if you must, turn off the connection or take it’s battery out. Either way, piss off with your glowing wrist of hate.