Theatre can be a social experience; you meet your friend or friends, have a pre-show drink, catch up, share your expectations of what you are about to see - but then you have to go in and watch in silence, not talk to each other, and suppress all natural social urges.
Maybe there's an interval - a chance to see whether you have a shared view on things, a chance to have another drink, some nuts - but maybe there isn't. This is fine with me ('90 minutes straight through'? Perfect). I am not someone who wants to talk about what they've seen before they have even escaped the auditorium, let alone the foyer. I don't want people to overhear what I thought, I'm too busy listening to what everyone else thought anyway. But if you're with someone else, the questions need to be asked and answered quickly, while the experience is still running through your veins. It's almost rude not to. It's almost the point of going with someone in the first place, no?
So what is the solution? Go on your own, of course.
I spend that pre-show half hour in the company of a dry white and a crossword and I'm happy as Larry. I have a cheeky interval cigarette, without feeling guilty about dragging my companion out into the rain, and I can listen to everyone else's opinions to my heart's content as I leave the premises, usually still making up my own mind.
I could never eat in a restaurant on my own (one of Mr C's favourite pastimes). I'd be embarrassed, self conscious, it feels a bit extravagant, and 50% of my enjoyment of a meal is saying out loud how delicious it is to whoever I'm with, to trying what's on their plate. It's liberating and essential to discuss the entertainment even as you are experiencing it.
Theatre isn't like that. As the house lights dim and I triple check my phone is off, I settle in, selfishly, to a different world. Eyes and ears open, mouth most definitely shut, and, for whatever time it takes, I don't think about anything else other then what's in front of me, what it means to me and me alone.
I might appear friendless, but I'm too busy getting acquainted with the characters on stage to care what you think.
- Clair Chamberlain