Go to home page

Theatre Etiquette

Page content:

For the uninitiated a theatre can be a daunting place to visit (what to wear, when to clap, having to be very quiet and the like). With the variety of performances and types of audience attracted to the Canberra Theatre Centre these days, there’s no need to feel daunted, most of the time a bit of common sense and courtesy will see you through. If you have any specific queries please check below for your answer, it’s sure to be there!

Anything about Ticketing

This is a big area! Click here to view the ticketing specific FAQs.

Where can I park?

Click here for parking details.

Start Times, Finish Times, Interval

Start times, finish times and intervals vary from show to show, check the webpage of the particular shows you are interested in, or any printed marketing material for details. If this information is not there, a quick phone call (02) 6275 2700 or email to the Centre’s Box Office during business hours should provide you with the information you need.

Do you have a dress code?

No, whatever you feel comfortable in is fine. Although you do need to be wearing shoes! Also consider your fellow theatre-goers when applying colognes and perfumes. Some scents could be very strong and affect others with allergies or respiratory difficulties.

How early should I get there?

Many shows at the Centre sell-out, so on a busy night there can be as many as 1,800 people in the venue. Be sure to allow enough time to find parking, collect your tickets, cloak your larger items, make your way to the venue, buy a program, order your interval drinks and find your seat. As a rough guide, try to be at the venue at least half an hour before the advertised starting time. It’s better to be too early and still have time for a drink, than to be late and be locked out of the theatre.

What happens if I’m late for the show?

Due to the nature of live entertainment, trying to find your way to your seat once a show has started can seriously disrupt both the audience and the performers on stage. Most performances have a lockout which restricts anybody from entering the auditorium until a suitable break in the performance. For some productions the lockout can be until interval; for others, the entire show. The best advice: Arrive early.

Can I use my phone in the theatre?

While you’re welcome to keep your phone with you, it is a requirement of your entry into the theatres that you turn your mobile off completely. Switching a phone to silent may eliminate sound issues, but the radio frequencies used by your network are the same as those used by our technical equipment, so any phone left on may cause serious problems within the performance. Some performances are beginning to experiment with live twittering and other types of electronic engagement. These are still very much in the experimental stage and would be communicated to patrons very clearly in advance.

Can I take photos of the performance?

No, you cannot. All shows you see at the Centre are protected by copyright laws and taking unauthorised still photos, video and audio recordings is a violation of these. Also, a single flash from the auditorium can be enough to seriously distract a performer which can cause major safety issues.

Can I bring food and drinks into the theatre?

In most cases only plastic cups of drinks (alcohol and non-alcohol) and food purchased from the Link Bar are permitted inside the auditorium.

And Smoking is banned inside right?


When do I clap?

While it sounds like a basic concept – you clap at the end of a show or the end of a song – you might wonder why some people clap when they do and whether you should join them. During an opera, people tend to applaud at the end of a scene (when the curtain comes down), or at the end of an impressive aria. In dance, the applause is more frequent with many audience members choosing to applaud impressive choreography while it’s being performed. Often, a particular dancer might receive a small round of applause when they first enter the stage. Symphonies are perhaps the trickiest. A piece will seem to have ended, and yet the audience sits quietly. Most pieces are made up of several ‘movements’, in between which the orchestra will wait for a few moments. It’s customary not to applaud until the end of the final movement. If you’re concerned, just follow everybody else’s lead. Musicals, on the other hand, are likely to leave your hands sore. As well as clapping after each song and at the end of each act, a well-regarded performer might receive applause when they first enter, as might an impressive dance routine or special effect in the middle of a song or scene. The band or orchestra might also be worthy of your applause after the overture or a big musical moment. Applause is what performers live off and is never unappreciated, so applaud whenever you feel like you should. If you’re worried however, just wait until everybody else claps.

Why can’t I talk to my partner during the show?

To you, it might be a few whispered words. To the person beside, in front or behind you, it’s a major distraction from what’s happening on the stage. Canberra Theatre Centre’s venues are designed with very good acoustics so you can hear every word that comes out of the actor’s mouth. Unfortunately, this means that in most cases they can hear every word that comes out of yours. You’d be surprised how obvious even a whisper in the auditorium is to a performer.

Will it be cold/hot in the auditorium?

The temperature inside most theatre venues is, if you’ll excuse the play on words, a hot topic! And this is especially so in Canberra with its often biting winters and stifling summers outside. Canberra Theatre Centre makes every effort to ensure a comfortable internal temperature for its patrons, however maintaining a constant temperature inside such large auditoriums is a constant challenge. Patrons should feel free to report any concerns to front of house staff who will investigate.

Will there be… stage smoke/flashing lights/loud explosions/blue language?

Going to the theatre can be an exciting experience, especially so when some shows feature special effects and others challenging language, themes and adult content. However we know that some patrons may wish to avoid productions with such content for personal, moral or health reasons. The Centre makes every effort to communicate the presence of such experiences through its marketing campaigns, webpage information and at the time of booking at the Box Office, however if you have any concerns please always be sure to ask when booking your ticket.

What about age appropriateness?

Unlike movies, theatrical performances do not generally have imposed age limits for adult content. It is up to the patron to make judgements about the age appropriateness of a show for their children. Usually a show’s ads or flyers will give an indication and more detail is usually provided on the website, again however if you have any particular concerns please ask at the time of booking.

What’s the story with understudies?

Most productions of scale have understudies supporting the lead role in the case of illness and other issues. When this is known in advance most companies make an effort to communicate this fact to their patrons, however this is not always possible. In any case, the terms of your ticket do not allow for a refund in the event that an understudy takes the stage. Rather than a disappointment, it is actually theatrical convention that audiences are quite supportive of understudies. Filling in at the last minute can be nerve wracking and experienced theatre goers understand this – plus you might just have seen the next Marina Prior or Michael Crawford get their big break!

What do I do with my coat, bags and umbrella?

Keeping large items with you in the theatre can create enormous problems for anybody trying to get past you on their way to or from their seat. In the dark, this can be a serious safety hazard. A free cloaking service is provided to look after your items.

I came to the theatre and I lost something. Who do I call?

Call the Front of House Manager on (02) 6243 5798. If not in, please leave a detailed message with your name, contact details, description of the item lost, the show and session you were seeing and your seat number. They will investigate and get back to you.