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10 superstitions which freak out the theatre world

It's Friday the 13th... unlucky for some. So we've written a handy guide to all of the things you definitely should not do in a theatre if you want the show to go on

© Flikr/Rachel Adams

1. No whistling backstage

You should never whistle in a theatre. Sailors were often employed as stagehands in theatres because, let's face it, there are a lot of ropes backstage and a lot on the deck of a ship. Whistling was used as a cue for the men to raise or lower ropes. If you whistle, the superstition goes that you may just end up with scenery on your bonce.

2. Leave the lights on please

Imagine being scared out of your wits just before your final soliloquy in Hamlet. Theatres are full of ghosts so the idea goes that leaving on a light can ward off any unwanted spirits (as well as help actors and stage crew to be able to see where they're going).

3. Keep those peacock feathers at home

They've been rumoured as the cause of forgotten lines, broken sets and curtains catching alight: peacock feathers are an absolute no-no in theatre. The feather is said to represent an 'evil eye' that bequeaths a curse on the show.

4. Don't say the 'M' word!

Probably the most famous of all theatrical superstitions. Saying 'Macbeth' in a theatre will immediately bring you bad luck. According to folklore, the play's history of bad luck began at its very first performance (circa 1606) when the actor scheduled to portray Lady Macbeth died suddenly and Shakespeare was forced to replace him. Eerie other reports have since surfaced over the years including an actor being killed in front of an audience when a prop dagger was mysteriously replaced with a real one. Some also believe Shakespeare brought the curse upon his own play by using authentic spells in the three witches' dialogue.

5. Never light three candles

They said good things come in threes but this is definitely not the case in theatre. Tradition states that the person nearest the shortest candle will either be the next to marry or the next to die. We quite like those odds though to be honest.

6. Break a leg

The ultimate faux-pas in a theatre is saying good luck to a thesp. Instead, merrily wish them to break a leg in order to simultaneously offer your best wishes as well as warding off any bad luck. Watch out for your understudy though, if you hear them saying the 'GL' phrase, you'll know they're on a mission to take centre stage.

7. Two left feet

The left foot is luckier than the right foot in theatre. Actors should always walk into a dressing room with their left foot first. If they don't, they must walk straight back out, turn around three times and re-enter with the correct foot or they will be doomed forever.

8. Flower power

Whilst the traditional method of giving flowers to lead actors after a show is a nice thing to do, flowers must never be given before a performance. Superstition dictates that flowers before a performer has earned them signify the end of a show and will therefore cause the production to close early.

9. Don't call ghostbusters

Another ghoulish superstition - ghosts should be given one night alone at the theatre as a mark of respect. Which is perhaps why we generally don't have performances on Sundays. The Palace Theatre believe this so much that they have two seats permanently bolted open for theatre ghosts to sit. Aww.

10. Mirror image

Mirrors are a definite no-no. By having a mirror on stage, you run the risk of it getting broken and receiving seven years of bad luck, not just for you but the theatre too. Keep those mirrors to dressing rooms only please.


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