The rules of engagement
There’s a rather sad and, at times, hysterical (but not of the amusing kind) fall-out on another blog about town which reviews amateur as well as professional productions in Brisbane.
Briztix, which also sells tickets and provides a very useful theatre resource for Brisbane, published a review of Blue Fish Theatrical Productions‘ Jekyll and Hyde. It is fair to say that it was a savage criticism, and the reaction it caused has raised some issues that are worth consideration. The comments extend for pages and they make for not very illuminating reading. Of course, blog comment panes are fair game for anyone who has an axe to grind – just check out some of the media sites if you want a sample of the kind of vitriol, lunacy and also quite marvellous insights by readers. On a theatre blog it’s also a logical way for supporters and critics to have their say – part of what the glorious democracy of the web is all about. As to the review in question, the commentary includes partisan name-calling which resorts to picking over the reviewer’s grammar and fitness to review plays as well as more level-headed commentary of the ‘back to your corners now people’ kind. It’s hot under the collar and defensive and, frankly, does no one, and especially not the local theatre community much good. It’s also a good case for not reading reviews until after a show closes.
Blue Fish Theatrical Productions is a new company – they did Spamalot last year – and they are aiming high; good for them. Whether or not they ‘bit off more than they could chew’ – a phrase found in some of the commentary – is not for comment here. Greenroom has not seen the show. In any case, this site does not review amateur productions – that’s our choice. It is not a judgement on the often remarkably fine work being done by amateur companies around S-E Queensland.
I guess the question at the heart of all this is whether or not reviewers should apply the same rules when discussing an amateur production as they do when taking on a professional work. What do you think?
And when does an amateur company cross the very flexible line into independent territory? Some time ago on my personal blog I mulled over what was meant by independent and professional when it comes to Queensland’s theatre. What is clear is that labels are a problem, and we don’t like them. Do they actually mean much any more? From the review postings mentioned above it seems they do.
What’s very clear, whether or not we reject labelling, is that when it comes to the recognition and reviewing of the broad range of work produced by the theatre sector in Brisbane, it’s time to agree on some ground rules.
The rules of engagement … what are they? Have your say below.
On Criticism (4 June, 2010)