Yesterday. Late after midnight. Intense but worthy little play with four in the cast and five of us in the audience. Mid-show someone lets one off.
A silent one, thankfully. Definitely a beery one. Chemical. One of the ones that lingers. And it did. It wasn’t me but since the audience is dispersed around the tiny space with me seated at the epicentre, I feel a slight tugging of attention in my direction away from the engaging polemic onstage. So what do I do?
“Not appropriate!” I can hear our blog administrator scream (Oh how poorly you know me — Ed). But this is Edinburgh where there are so many little tics of quirky fringe etiquette to be honoured that cover all aspects of daily life here, honed over the ages, unlikely to be encountered elsewhere. Like knowing when to graciously accept a flier offered on the Royal Mile or when to hurry on by. When deciding upon the most sensitive time to open your brolly outside in the rain at, say, Decky Does a Bronco, thus obliterating the view for at least five spectators behind you. When smiling politely upon being informed that the show was at 11am and not 11pm. When negotiating aged relatives up for the week through the nightclub/pub inspired pavement vomit en route to the Traverse as if it were the most natural thing in the world. When remembering not to sit next to the air-conditioner in the Wildman Room. Little, insignificant things like these that make our significant Edinburgh world go round just a little more smoothly.
And so I found myself wondering whether such a situation, thankfully rare in the theatre world, demands a particular etiquette and, if so, what should it be. It’s the lingering bit that got to me, not the fact that everyone else (aside from the disgracefully silent perpetrator) thought it was me who originated the emanation. Could one edge oneself gently away from the danger zone, assuming one has the seating space. Or should one brave it out, for fear of disrupting the players (this was a very small space indeed). Thinking a little further, if one is in fact the perpetrator, then should one be commended for at least not unleashing a deafening honker in the middle of that sweet soliloquy. Perhaps a short soft coded cough to indicate contrition, and then we can all move on. Without doubt the actors must have picked up on it, but you’d never know because, unlike audiences, they’re trained to ignore distractions. Even, of course, if it was one of them who supplied it.