‘BETTER LATE THAN NEVER BUT BETTER NEVER LATE.’ George Bernard Shaw
I don’t know if this is still the case, however when I worked with The Australian Ballet, and they played the Victorian Arts Centre, they always held the curtain for five minutes. This was the only venue in which they did this because Victorian audiences were notorious late comers. I have also noticed this over the years in other Victorian venues where I have worked. Some members of our Mallacoota audiences however take the royal biscuit. I have a bit to do with some of the events that happen around the Mudbrick and recently I have noticed that the plague of late comers is getting worse. ”Mallacoota Time” has always been a joke here and people use it as an excuse for coming late. There is, however, a limit. The last time Jo Jo Smith performed here the audience was very thin at the advertised start time and as usual we were holding the curtain waiting. Some of the audience had arrived 25 minutes before the advertised start and began to get restless. After we waited for 20 minutes while tardy audience members trickled in Jo Jo decided it was time to begin and the show opened. Half way through the first song a whole swag of people trouped in and walked right across the room in front of the stage while Jo Jo was belting out a song as only she can. Dee Jay Gosper came to town a few weeks ago. She was running late because she (like many other out of town performers in the past) misjudged how far Mallacoota is from everywhere else. The result was that we were forced to do the sound check while the audience was present and as a result the show started almost half an hour late. Dee Jay was into her third song when the last late comers arrived. On Saturday night we had a very special performance by Brent McLeod and Friends and some of the winners of the Grunden and Graeme Music Scholarship. I was standing by the door videoing the event and the last late comers arrived about an hour into the performance.
What we are talking about here are matters of respect. Three matters of respect. Firstly there is the matter of the integrity of the performer. Here is an artist who is prepared to make themselves extremely vulnerable: sharing some of their inner life, personal experiences and talent in a public fashion. They may be amateurs performing for free or professionals performing for money but they are all artists putting themselves on the line for the entertainment of the general public. We owe them the courtesy of turning up on time. Secondly there is the matter of respect for our fellow community members who did make the effort to turn up on time. They have been sitting patiently while the curtain is held waiting for late comers and then after the show starts they have their pleasure marred by people blundering through the audience space looking for a chair. Thirdly there is respect for the material – for the art. Many, not all, late comers will arrive half way through a song or a piece of music and blithely walk through the door, greet their mates, sit down, clank around for a stubby, open a packet of chips and have a good fart. They totally ruin the piece of work, unsettle the performer and seriously disturb the rest off the audience. It very rarely occurs for these late comers to wait for the end of a song or a break in the show to enter and find a seat. One can imagine how one of these late comers would react if someone drove their surf ski right over the spot where they were fishing or decided to hold a picnic in the middle of the fairway of their golf course when they were about to tee off. Performances presented by local artists take a great deal of organizing, getting together the performers, selecting the material, rehearsing, advertising and manning the venue on the night. Performances from out of town also require a great deal of organization: the writing of grant submissions the organization of the event and the endless book keeping and report writing to acquit the event with the funding organizations after the event. Performances in Mallacoota are not that common either and surely it doesn’t not take much effort to arrive somewhere at a set time. Perhaps there is a problem with making a distinction between the types of performances and the etiquette required of each. For instance-
- A gig in the pub beer garden is an event where people come and go as they please, have a bit of a dance, disappear to make a bet and come back for another listen. The event is put on by the publican for the sole purpose of selling more alcohol. Audience behaviour and comings and goings are much more relaxed but respect is still due to the artists performing.
- A dance/disco also allows for relaxed attendance times unless it is formal and the musicians are there for the convenience of the dancers and this is understood by them.
- Where a performance has mixed seating – cafe and audience style: it is implied that audience member can be free to discreetly move around and go to the bar for refreshments etc, but this arrangement does not imply turning up whenever they like or disturbing others enjoyment.
- If an event is staged with audience style seating and is advertised as such, then it is important to be on time because the seating style indicated that the show has a beginning, a middle and end. Also, trying to get to empty seats when seats are in rows disturbs everyone.
So please fellow Mallacootians, please, please make an effort to turn up to events on time. Right now we are getting trapped in an endless recursive situation where organizers are holding the curtain for late comers and audience members are saying to themselves, ‘We don’t need to turn up on time because they always hold the curtain…… oops… look how late it is….’. So the curtain gets held longer and longer as people get later and later and in the end the shows will be starting the dayafter the advertised start. Of course sometimes events conspire to make being late unavoidable. When this is the case dear audience members please wait for the end of the song before you enter the venue. “I have noticed that the people who are late are often so much jollier than the people who have to wait for them.” E. V. Lucas