Thursday August 21st 2014

Please could adults sit further back…?

theatre-seating

In the last couple of weeks, I have attended a great many children’s shows with my daughter, because I have been writing reviews about them for our Edinburgh Festival Publication ThreeWeeks. There’s an exciting variety of events for kids at the Fringe these days; it wasn’t always so, but certain venues have in recent years made very focused attempts to create child-friendly spaces and programme a breadth of different shows.

In the last week or so, I’ve noticed something which I’m finding a bit irksome, however. The fact is – and I am not quite sure always, why this is – that a lot of children’s shows seem to attract an unaccompanied adult audience. I’ve been to quite a number of shows in recent days at which I’d estimate that 80% plus of the audience are adults attending without children. With some of the shows, it’s obvious why – things like Potted Sherlock are really family shows, not just for children, and much of the humour is actually aimed at an older generation – but some it’s less obvious – perhaps the show just got good reviews? Or perhaps it’s adults who are desperately trying to fill every window in their Fringe day… and first thing in the morning, the choice of adult shows is slim.

Anyway, it doesn’t really matter why. What is bothering me is that these crowds of unaccompanied adults get there early, wait quietly in the queue, and take all the seats in the front rows. It’s their right to do so. I’m not contesting that. But.

A) Often children’s shows have an interactive element, and the performers want to interact with children, not old folks.

B) It’s really hard to find a seat where a small child can sit and actually see the stage if the entire row in front is filled with adults. This is less of a problem if you have very steep tiered seating, but that’s rare at the Fringe. You’re far more likely to be on gently tiered seating or in a venue with no tiers at all, and quite often the show is being performed on the same level as the seating, or on a very small dais.

On a couple of occasions, it’s felt almost ridiculous; six rows of adults with a good view, and then row after row of children, all desperately craning their necks in order to see something. On a number of occasions, the only thing I could do to get my daughter a view of the action was to sit her on my knee. I probably couldn’t do that if she were a couple of years older, yet she’d still be struggling to see anything.

I’ve only been at one venue where the hall staff actually asked the adults to hold back and allow children to take up the first few rows. I wish this was a universal practice. Like I said earlier, they have a right to sit where they want to sit, having paid for a ticket. But I think it’s a bit mean. The children struggle to see. They’re adults, they’re taller, they’ll do fine on the sixth row. And I think maybe they need to be told that.

 

Image courtesy of Apple’s Eyes Studio / FreeDigitalPhotos.net