Thursday, 10 October 2013

Wicked....but ruined!

I want to start today's blog by congratulating the cast and crew of 'Wicked' for one of the most spectacular shows I have ever had the pleasure to see.  The sets, the amazing costumes and the artists both chorus and principals were exceptional.  Thank you so much for bringing your show to New Zealand.  My seven year old daughter was absolutely blown away and is proudly parading around in her purple wicked t-shirt this morning.

Now the compliments are over it's time to move on to what this blog is really about!

A complaint to the management of the Civic Theatre Auckland -

Yesterday afternoon my young daughter Charlotte and I went to see Wicked at the Civic Theatre in Auckland.  As a single Mum I had saved for near on four months to pay the $220 for two tickets in C row in the stalls.  As the date of the performance crept nearer I can't tell you how excited Charli and I were to be coming once more to the beautiful Civic Theatre to see a show.  In fact so excited we couldn't sleep the night before it felt like Christmas eve!

Charlotte was just three years old when I brought her to see her first show and we have saved every year to see some truly amazing shows at this lovely theatre, including Phantom, Mamma Mia and Mary Poppins.

I have never had cause to complain, I have often felt the sting of the overpriced merchandise and refreshments but nothing that has ever overly bothered me.  Until last night......

As the curtain rose yesterday afternoon we were taken away to the beautiful and at times truly magnificent land of Oz, we laughed, we cried, we hid during the scary bits and as the curtain came down for the interval we headed up to the foyer to buy one of theatres greatest traditions an icecream.  By the time the curtain went up for the second half we were settled into our seats our icecreams finished ready for the next half and that's when it started.

A rustle made me turn sideways to eye up the person sitting next to me, a teenager, who had during the interval purchased a large bag of popcorn and a large bag of candyfloss. I looked a little in disbelief wondering how they could have smuggled it into the theatre when the people sitting the other side of me also opened a bag of popcorn, a Mother and daughter, then to my utter dismay a person behind me too.  Before I knew it all we could hear was the constant rustle of what seemed like a bottomless supply of snacks ruining any chance we had to hear properly or from that point on enjoy the performance.  Even my seven year old daughter turned to me and said 'Mum I can't hear properly the lady next to me is making so much noise'.

Now I am not usually one to complain but the theatre is one of my loves.  The fact that I paid over $200 for tickets, $25 for a programme, $40 for a t-shirt, $10 for ice-creams and money on drinks too, I think gives me a right to be able to sit and enjoy a performance without having it ruined by people eating through it!!

When we entered the theatre at the beginning of the show I actually heard an usherette reprimand someone who had brought a sandwich in to eat (which at least would have been quieter!), but is of course not acceptable but in your wisdom you think it's alright for people to devour noisy snacks as long as they are purchased from you for a live theatre show.   I didn't pay $10 to sit in the cinema or $40 to go to the circus, I paid $220 for Stalls tickets!!!!!!!!!!

What has happened to theatre etiquette?

This is what the second half sounded like!
There are some beautiful quiet moments in Wicked where the two witches are exchanging dialogue ....for us these were accompanied by 'scrunch, scrunch, rustle, rustle, scrunch, scrunch'.  What is the obsession we now have with having to eat all the time???  I go to the cinema now and we have pizzas, chips, popcorn, you can even have a three course meal now if you want to.  What happened to just being able to go and sit and enjoy a performance why do we have to stuff our faces to enjoy it?!

I spoke to the  Manager of the Civic afterwards and he asked me 'What do you think we should sell?'  I said 'How about nothing! I don't want to listen to other people eating, ice-creams are brilliant because they are finished before the curtain even goes up for the second half'

As I said to the Manager this is about greed plan and simple and now I am not talking of people's greed to eat constantly but the greed of the theatre.  How else can we make money, what else can we sell to make an extra buck!  Well this time Civic you have got it wrong, there is no way I will ever go to another show unless these sorts of foods are banned from your theatre.  You won't let people bring them in and you shouldn't be selling them yourself, stop being so greedy!

Let's get back to the time when you felt a sense of occasion going to the theatre.  When you dress up and act like civilized people.  I mean seriously can people not last 3 hours without needing to stuff their faces??  What truly amazed me about these people is they seemed to have no conception that the noise might be upsetting other theatre goers or even worse the poor actors themselves!

During the performance I was one of three people who turned to the various culprits to tell them to sshhh, so this upset was not purely me, other people were bothered by it too.

I have spent many years working both as an actress and as an usherette during those times when acting work was unavailable.  In the West End you would be thrown out for eating, it's as serious as leaving your mobile on! It is also incredibly disrespectful for those on stage, I only hope that the poor actors can't hear it!  This has to be a new thing for the Civic because I have never had this experience before, I just hope it is some horribly short lived experiment that they will think better of!

I can't tell you how bitterly disappointed I was to have our evening ruined.  We had been looking forward to it for so, so long.   I have written to the management of the Civic and I will let you know what happens when I get a reply.  I have a feeling though it might be time to take up a petition against them.  I can't stand the thought of not going to the shows there but it felt like a total waste of my money from the interval onwards.

I just hope they listen, it is just such a shame to see a theatre drop it's standards of behaviour in favour of making money.  Come on Civic show us you care!!

Have a great day folks

Kate x

Reply from The Edge to which I replied that I would like to be kept informed on future developments, I have to say it might have been nice if they had offered us a partial refund or something but there you go, most important thing is that they are going to look into it, I just hope they actually do!! 

Dear Kate,

Thank you for your feedback regarding the distracting noise the packaging of some confectionary items make when used by patrons, it is most appreciated.

In the past few years The Civic has had several productions with exceptionally long running seasons like Jersey Boys and Mary Poppins with audiences of many thousands and this is the first feedback of this nature that I have received.

It is of course not our goal to effect anyone’s enjoyment negatively. In fact we are selling themed confectionary, cocktails and suchlike to add value to the experience even before our patrons enter the theatre and enjoy the actual event. In this case being able to buy Wickedly green fudge, candyfloss and a themed cocktail.

Having said all this, you say that your experience was negatively affected by the noise of the packaging and this is enough for us to look into this matter and see whether we need to make some changes, be it by not selling certain items altogether or changing the packaging.

Once again thank you very much for your feedback, I will personally visit a few performances to get an idea of the extent of the problem and address it accordingly.

Best regards,

Frank Bischoff | Head of Visitor Experience


  1. I also went to see this show in the opening week, to be honest the show is quite bland actually, in reference to your comments on noisey confectionary, and making a "buck", the civic theatre is a council owned entity, they make no money, they are funded by the council, I welcome them to make as much money as possible, as if they don't it's tax payers that have to stump the short fall. I think you are drawing a long bow to be demanded to be compensated for someone eating popcorn next to you. Come on get real!

    1. I don't usually publish anonymous comments, I always think if you have something to say you should be brave enough to back it with your identity but on this occasion we will let you hide!

      In reply to your comments. Firstly everyone is entitled to their own opinions so thank you for commenting.

      I don't know how anyone could describe Wicked as bland but ok. I don't really care whether it's the council or the Civic who pick up the money for sales, someone is making the money.

      The reason for claiming compensation is that I spent $220 on tickets and basically didn't hear any of the second half, we didn't have one but three people scrunching around us! If you go to a restaurant and you meal is crap, you don't expect to pay for it, if you buy a pair of shoes and the heel falls off you take them back. I paid a lot of money to bring my daughter to this wonderful show and we basically only got to enjoy the first half, so yes I do consider compensation is valid ask.

      So that's me 'Getting real' thanks for reading, maybe if you comment next time use your name ;-)

    2. Ahh don't worry everyone is entitled to their own opinion! But yes I did wonder the same thing myself ;-)

  2. I totally agree with Katherine, I too was bothered by the noise of packets at a performance of Wicked, it to ruined it for us too. I to don't understand why people have to eat during shows, it really spoils it. The show itself was great but it was spoiled I quite agree and good for you doing something about, the previous comment was obviously written by someone who works for the Civic!!!!!!

  3. Another Anonymous comment, it's one of those days where no one wants to be known :-) Thanks for your comment and so sorry to hear your evening was also spoiled by the same problem. According to the theatre they have never had this problem before so perhaps you could write and tell them about your experience! Let's hope they listen and do something about it. As I said to the manager when I wrote back if they have to serve these items perhaps they could at least look into changing the packaging. Thanks again for your comment.

  4. My wife and I would sign a petition

    1. Thanks George, hopefully the theatre is looking into it and a petition will be a last resort. The manager seems on to it, so fingers crossed the problem will be fixed. Will keep you updated :-)

  5. Hey Kate.

    I saw the show on Thursday night and absolutely loved it! Not afraid to say that I shed a tear or two hahaha.

    I totally see where you're coming from with the scrunching. It didn't bother me that much. What did was the sudden coughing fit that spread like wild fire throughout the audience. And a man who had the cheek to get up mid show and walk the length of the aisle to get to the exit, disrupting the whole row and those behind us. It completely took me out of the dream that was 'WICKED' and it took a while to get immersed amongst the dream again. And then of course he came back and had to get into his seat again. Was a little frustrating to say the least. So I completely empathise with yah.

    This brings me to my point for the post (it's been long-winded but hey). It's not the theatre's fault for the actions of its patrons. It's the individuals who scrunched the wrappers not the theatre, just as it was the man's fault for not going to the loo before the show or just holding on. We can't blame it on the theatre for selling food or drink. Why shouldn't they.
    It's those ice creams I reckon. Back in 2008 I saw Phantom at the Civic and even then thought it was an odd choice of treat to sell. And I see that nothing's changed.
    BUT, I do think that the packaging could be changed. It's hard coz most things come in plastic wrappers these days. But it can be done. Surely.

    I'm not sure about the compensation part. If I was sent your complaint I would see your point but would possibly think that maybe this is just another person looking for a freebie. No offence in any way. Apologies if it comes off sounding rude.I do feel your frustration though, I do.

    And I agree whole heartedly with your comment about the theatre being an occasion that you get dressed up for. Why don't people do that any more? I appreciate that you and your daughter did and the two of you look lovely in the photos :-) To me it just makes sense, you spend a heap of money on tickets so why wouldn't you chuck on your glad rags and make a real thing of it. Instead people insist on showing up looking like they got dressed in the dark. There were those that did make an effort and I'm glad that there are still people (like you and I) who appreciate the fact that the theatre is something you dress up for. My gosh I'm waffling. Apologies if none of this is interesting or relevant. I just saw your post and was like 'YES I can see what she's saying'.

    From one theatre practitioner to another.
    Thanks for caring about theatre :-)

    1. Thanks so much for your comments, nice to know their are others out there who see the theatre as a special occasion.

      I blame the theatre I suppose because they choose what to serve to their patrons, why do we have to have food sold at all? Let alone noisy food, at least with an icecream it's wrapper comes off and it becomes noiseless. I worked in the London theatres for years and we didn't sell anything that made a noise, it was simply not done. For me it just strikes of wanting to get as much out of people as possible regardless of whether anyone's entertainment is ruined by it. If we have to serve popcorn why not in a tub like it is at the cinema, specifically designed for less noise.

      To me I feel like I got half an evenings entertainment so yes I do feel like we should be compensated for that. I saved for four months on a single Mum's income to go to this show and I feel like we missed out. By the end I was in tears and so mad with the people around me, remember not one but three!! The show was so amazing and we missed the second half :-( The way I see it half a show is half a ticket. Harsh but maybe if people make a stand (and this is more what it's about) then they will have to look at what they are doing and how it effects people. Well that's what I hope anyway!

      Believe it or not I saw someone dressed in shorts and jandals at the performance!!!! It's such a shame, I don't find many occasions to dress up these days so take the opportunity when I can!! But the theatre really should be one of them I reckon.

      So thank you fellow theatre goer for dropping by, I appreciate you taking the time to comment and here's hoping that the next trip to the Civic is a quiet one!


    2. The more and more I read your post the more and more I move into your corner hahaha. I understand the theatre selling food. It's the world we live in these days. So they just need to limit/alter the food they sell, like you say.

      Jandals! No! Why?! How can one be ok with going in jandals. That is so not ok! But again, it's the world we live in these days. It sucks :-(

      Just out of curiosity, what drew you to the stalls in particular? We sat in the far left seats of the third row of the circle. Granted we did miss a few little things, we didn't see the house that fell on Nessarose and we didn't see the 'Congratulations' sign in the engagement announcement. But other than that I thought we got a fantastic show for $80 a seat.
      That really does suck that others can wreck such an amazing experience though.

      Also, re the 'Anonymous' comment saying that Wicked was bland. What a joke. I'd love to know what they'd class as a visual extravaganza because that is most certainly what Wicked is! The story is so intricately woven. Aaah! At the end after the melting!!!! My God! My heart dropped. It's like all that I thought I knew was a lie hahahaha. I think that's where the tear came in :-)

      I also want to thank you for introducing and reinforcing theatre in your daughter's world. I think the arts is a true blessing. And it should be a key element in a child's upbringing. I'm straying form the point but I thought that it should be said :-)

    3. I know I think the jandals might have been my breaking point....giggle

      The reason I went for the stalls was because the last time we went to the Civic was to see 'Mary Poppins', with two people who had NEVER been to the theatre and I think he thought the tickets prices were a bit mental so I/we purchased circle seats a fair way back. The actors were dots on the stage I felt like we couldn't get as involved. We sat in C row stall this time and they were worth every cent of the $110 each (apart from the problems!).

      I did sit there and decide thought I reckon the ultimate seats at the Civic are about G or H row smack bang in the middle. Once I get over my tantrum and book for whatever is coming next that's what I am going to aim for!! Although centre front of the circle is good too.

      I know I found 'bland' a strange choice of words. My parents went to see Wicked in Australia and my Dad wasn't too keen but as he said bland is the very last word that you could use to describe it. As you say if nothing else it is a visual extravaganza!

      Theatre and music has always been really important in my family. My eldest was just five weeks old when she came along with my to 'Guys & Dolls' at my nieces school. She lay in my arms staring up at me the whole was so precious. She has since been too so many different performances even sat through the whole of the Messiah last year. I have always believed that if you introduce your kids to it young enough you will give them something to love for the rest of their lives. The only problem I have is my other one wants to get up on the stage, not happy just to sit in her chair! On the look out for a drama class for her!

  6. Ok so my boycott of the Civic is so out of the window as James Blunt is coming to New Zealand for one night only in May, so popcorn or not I have to take Charli to that concert she will be so happy!!!!


Would love to hear from you!