At that moment, it feels like your absolute duty. Your duty as a human being; as an appreciator of art; as a brave and unselfconscious pioneer of all that is true and fine and noble. It is a surge of blood to the head, of tears to the eyes, of idealism and gratitude to the heart - of self to the feet. To hell, you think, with all you staid pensioners, you embittered critics, you self-conscious thespianistas! I shall stand as I applaud, alone and unafraid!
And then the lights go up.
The decision now is whether to sit immediately, briskly, head ducking, as if to say: Job done, splendid, only their due, ah! Here's my coat, off we pop. The other is to remain standing, stiff and proud and making eye contact with all around you, as if to say: Cowards! Cowards!
I am always surprised when I make a solo ovation. I'm English. I'm the kind of person who affects world-weary disdain as the Americans applaud the landing of a plane. Clapping at the cinema induces a cringe so deep it's almost pleasurable. I'm also an antisocial introvert, usually going to plays alone and spending the interval avoiding eye contact by reading Flashman novels secreted behind the dustcover of Theatricalities of Power: The Cultural Politics of Noh ...