Not a day goes by without someone, somewhere grinding their axe on a theatre production. This can be in print or more recently, in online criticism. Equally, theatre workers diss the critics, especially when their production has been less than favourably treated.
The issue of the quality of play reviewing is of sufficient interest we would have thought, to garner some commentary. However, this poll on the quality of theatre criticism wasn’t well responded to in terms of numbers, and we wonder whether or not there is a general malaise or simple disinterest (by this small – but niche – readership at least) about the issue. It also opens up another poll which we’ll release soon; this one on what makes for a good piece of theatre criticism. But to the results of this poll …
Clearly the quality of play reviewing varies here in Australia and elsewhere, and the results show this; perhaps this wasn’t a good option to put – seems far too obvious. No respondent thought the overall standard to be ‘Excellent,’ but a quarter of all respondents thought the quality of play reviewing in their locale to be ‘Awful.’
One comment: Pandering, uncritical and written as if the “critic” is looking for friends
UPDATE Nov 2011: Greenroom used to collect reviews into an index at the beginning of our time here i.e., when other groups and companies were not making it quite so easy for people. A couple of years on social media has really taken a grip and it’s not hard to access online versions of play reviews i.e., from those big media companies who bother to publish them on the web as well as from independent arts writers and bloggers. Indeed, there is far more writing about the arts in general now that we have so much free space in cyberspace. The issue of quality? Ah, well, another can of worms there.
Greenroom suggested last year – after the results of a poll on whether or not theatre workers read reviews – that another poll on the quality of theatre reviewing might be in order sometime. Perhaps it’s always time to mull over such a thing – but that time is surely right now at the start of a new theatre season here. Theatre reviewers around the traps have flexed their fingers over keyboards and let rip with their take on the new and older shows like Hamlet and The Little Dog Laughed which have opened this month in Brisbane at the city’s two full-time professional companies. Play reviews posted to blogsites generally allow commentary, and readers – who may or may not have seen the plays being reviewed – are letting rip in return with their opinions on well … just about anything.
Maybe the best analogy is to consider us aesthetic referees – calling ‘em like we see ‘em. That is the ideal anyway. My responsibility is to write honestly, and (I hope) with eloquence and understanding and maybe even passion about what I see.
But, it’s time for that poll. Here’s your chance to say what you think poll-style. It’s open for two weeks, so have your say and share it round. The results will be published here when the poll closes.
And, just in case you didn’t know, Greenroom does its best to gather all reviews into an index here on site. You can find links to online published reviews and blog commentary by clicking our home page calendar during a play’s season; you’ll find links there to all shows entered in the calendar and the reviews we’ve ‘captured.’ Just follow the links to their originating sites. To save you the trouble this time, here they are for La Boite’s Hamlet, and here for Queensland Theatre Company’s The Little Dog Laughed.
We left this poll open for a couple of weeks, and the results are in.
Seems as though most artists and creatives do read reviews and criticism of their current shows. Only 10% claimed to wait till after the show was finished. Not one respondent was bold enough to ignore the reviews. Shame really, as many are not worth reading, especially those that (for starters) get the facts wrong and are penned by those whose halting syntax and lack of theatre nous (rather than the subject of their criticism) are what take centre stage.
We created an ‘Other’ category for people to add their comments. These are two of the comments from the 20%:
‘Yes, but not until well into the run’;
‘When acting, not till show closes. When coaching, yes – a necessity.’
So, there you have it. I suppose this opens another can of worms which we’d be happy to see wriggle away here or elsewhere i.e., what constitutes a quality theatre review? Maybe that’s the next poll!
I followed with interest the blogging of Jane Fonda earlier this year. She was rehearsing and appearing in 33 Variations on Broadway at the time. She wrote a post To Read or Not to Read – the reviews, that is – and it emerged that she was advised be her friend, fellow actor Christine Lahti not to read them, at least until after the season was over. The post and the comments make for good reading – as does the whole blog of the process. She wrote
This will be hard for me. My curiousity may get the better of me. Yet I can imagine that if a reviewer really likes or really hates something I do, it has the potential to change my performance a little. Something to think about between now and a week from now. I’ll let you know what I decide…maybe.
She turned out to be as good as her word, and read them when the show closed.
I thought it was time to see what the general consensus is, so here’s a poll which we’ll keep open for a couple of weeks. Have your say!