The Theatre has been with us for over 2,000 years and it's managed to generate a few superstitions along the way. We've had a look into thirteen of the most interesting to keep you entertained this Friday the 13th!

1. Unlucky props

Real jewellery, real mirrors and real money are said to be the cause of performance disasters including forgotten lines and broken sets. In reality, mirrors can interfere with stage lights and be a source of distraction for actors (although A Chorus Line’s famous mirror scene has done a lot to dispel the mirror myth!) whereas real money and jewellery were originally prohibited to remove the temptation of prop theft.

2. Break a leg

Probably one of the best-known theatre superstitions, “break a leg” should always be used in place of good luck when speaking to someone in the theatre. There are many theories behind this tradition, the first referring to the side curtains where multiple curtain calls result in the repeat opening of these curtains as they go on and offstage.  The second hails back to Elizabethan England where audiences would throw money onto the stage for the actors to kneel down and collect, thus bending the knee causes a visual break in the line of the leg.

3. The colour blue

It’s said to be bad luck to wear the colour blue onstage - the only way to counteract it is to accompany it with something silver. It’s believed to have come from the early days of theatre when blue dye was very difficult (and expensive) to acquire. As an audience member, if you saw actors wearing blue you could assume that they were successful but many companies donned the unlucky colour to fool their audiences into thinking they were more popular than they actually were. The sure way to tell a prosperous (and therefore successful) theatre company? If their blue costumes were accompanied by real silver!

4. Sack the whistler

Before the invention of walkie talkies, theatre technician cues were whistled by the stage manager. If someone else happened to be whistling backstage, this could have a disastrous effect so it’s not surprising that this superstition calls for someone to be fired in the event of a rogue backstage whistler. Unfortunately, it’s not always the whistler who may find themselves the object of a firing!

5. Best foot forward

For performers, it is said that leading with your left foot as you exit a dressing room is good luck. On the other hand (or foot) audiences should enter a theatre leading with the right foot. Give it a try next time you’re heading to the theatre to see what happens!

6. Monday night visits

Ever wondered why some theatres close on Mondays? Some believe that the ghost of Thespis, who was apparently the first person to speak lines as an individual actor onstage in 6BC thus fathering the term “thespian”, visits the theatre one night per week to return to the stage and cause unexplained mischief. This superstition states that the theatre should be empty at least one night per week, traditionally Mondays, to placate the pesky Thespis. A “ghost light” should be placed downstage centre to give the ghosts enough light to see whilst also acting as a practical health and safety device to prevent tripping over props in the dark for celestial and non-celestial beings alike!

7. The evil eye 

The Greek myth of Argus tells the story of a giant whose body was covered with one hundred of eyes. After he was slain protecting the nymph Io, his eyes were preserved forever in a peacock's tail. The peacock feather has now come to represent the evil eye to many thespians who believe that chaos will ensue if the dreaded feather makes its way onstage… 

8. The Scottish Play

Uttering the real name of the The Scottish Play in a theatre is well known to have terrible consequencces… If you do accidentally say the dreaded “M” word, one way to absolve yourself is to leave the theatre immediately, spit, curse, spin three times and beg to be allowed to re-enter. One reason behind this is that Shakespeare himself cursed the play so that no one other than himself could direct it. A more sombre and practical explanation is that the play was put on by struggling theatres as a last-ditch attempt at success – sadly, the play was not enough to save many of them from bankruptcy. 

9. The Last Line

According to this superstition, performers should never speak the final line of a show before it opens. Similarly, bad luck will befall anyone who takes their bows to an empty house!

10. Flower theft

To symbolise the “death” of a show, this superstition calls for a bunch of flowers stolen from a graveyard to be given to the director or lead actress on the closing night of a show. It is thought to be borne out of practicality where graveyards were seen as a source of free flowers  for struggling, penniless actors. 

11. Sleep on your script

Whilst we don’t recommend relying on this superstition, we like the idea of keeping your script close to your heart (or head) and sleeping with it under your pillow. Some believe that this will help the lines “diffuse” into your memory although, funnily enough, there is no science to back this up!

12. Three candles

If you find yourself onstage next to three lit candles, beware! According to this theatre superstition, the person closest to the shortest candle will either be the next to marry... or die!

13. The curse of a good dress

Many actors believe that a bad dress rehearsal signals a successful show! This is probably due to a great sense of positivity and comradery amongst performers and we don’t think a good dress should be sniffed at! 

If you'd like to come and test some of these superstitions out for yourself, take a look at the new shows in our Spring Season but whatever you do, don't say the "M" word!