Front Row Debate: the Tweet Seat

Is it just us or does it look like this bird is taking a bow...?

The Tweet Seat is quite possibly coming to a theatre near you sometime in the near future. Offering a small section of the audience a chance to live-Tweet during performances, the Tweet Seat has been met with both outrage and applause in America. Here, two of our writers discuss this rather controversial seating arrangement…

Farrah Kelly is in favour of the Tweet Seat

Wasn’t it Voltaire who said: ‘I might not like what you Tweet, but I defend to the death your right to Tweet it in the middle of a performance’? I’m paraphrasing, but it was definitely something along those lines. In any case, our old buddy Voltaire has got a point.

The wonderful thing about platforms like Twitter is that it allows a stream of thought to be expressed at it happens. This translates as anyone, anywhere, can divulge or find an opinion at any time. The power of this is cleverly being harnessed by American theatres, who, by allowing Tweet Seats, are increasing their audiences magnificently.

Live-blogging is a wonderful invention. If you don’t currently read live-blogs of TV programmes, sports matches, local events, or of relationships breaking down, then you are missing out. Live-blogging an event increase interest, and increases the discussion. Surely the more people available to review and criticise an art form, the more pressure there is to produce higher quality art? Why not extend this to theatre?

Live-blogging theatre would mean that people who don’t normally access these art forms would have an entire new and approachable way to get involved. For those of you in a huff about bleeping phones and the light glare from screens being an impediment to your enjoyment of the performance, worry no more. At least the theatre companies have segregated these pesky Tweeters. If you don’t wish to be distracted this frantic phone-tapping, then don’t sit there.

And just think, if this idea catches on, then in a few years instead of the inane #ReplaceAJustinBeiberSongWithKitten top tweets we’re currently subject to, we might just have #ReplaceAShakespeareQuoteWithKitten. And in my eyes, that’s one step closer to a smarter society.

Katie Byrne argues against the Tweet Seat

One of the many things I like about going to the theatre is the fact that, for two hours, you’re totally immersed in a whole new world. However, this might be about to change.

Enter the Tweet Seat (yes, really. What next? The, um, Facebook Cook? The Myspace Place?)

The idea is that a small area of each theatre will be dedicated to those of us who are simply unable to go the duration of a play or film without Tweeting. In its most basic form, it’s the perfect opportunity for culture-loving tech-heads to provide a running commentary of what they’re seeing on stage, as it happens.

I agree that in this modern-day world, it probably makes sense. Why should we not have a 21st century mini-bard sitting in the corner of productions, missing all the real drama – the expression, the emotion – because she/he is too busy trying to condense his/her thoughts into 140 characters or less? It makes perfect sense. Obviously.

Convention states that when in the audience of a film or play, we leave our mobile phones turned off (or at the very least, on silent) and stowed away in our bags or pockets. But hey! Perhaps the Tudors had the right ideas. At the time when Shakespeare was writing, theatre audiences were raucous, drunk and loud. Inebriated Medieval bellowing is quite clearly (well, maybe) the 16th century equivalent of Tweeting. And I bet if Elizabeth I could have Tweeted during, say, Hamlet, she would have done (‘This is going on FOREVER and is beyond boring #fml’).

Whilst it could lead to great online exposure for new playwrights, it could equally lead to the decline of the theatre. Why would anyone bother forking out their hard-earned pounds to see the latest West End play if they could simply stay at home on their sofa and follow @TweetSeatTim?

One last thing. I don’t know about you, but I hate it when I go to the theatre, or cinema, or anyway dark really (apart from dubious looking alleyways), and am surrounded by people on mobile phones. It’s meant to be dark, not lit up like we’re at a Coldplay concert.

What hope does a Tweeter have – no matter how pithy their hashtags – of trying to recreate the setting and atmosphere of the show? And for that matter, why would we want them to?

OMG! Romeo thinks Juliet is dead and has picked up his dagger! Hope there aren’t any more tragedies coming, lol! #awkward
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