Telling stories with imagination.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Metta likes...Reviews

Well ok, we do have a bit of a love/hate relationship with them of course, they are there to criticise us after all - and we certainly prefer them when they're glowing!
The Guardian Theatre Blog
I guess there are two parts to this discussion. The first part is the simpler one - reviews are a great way to get the word out about a show - people read reviews in places that they wouldn't have seen our advertising, so we can reach a wider group of people to tell them that the show is on. And a review of course gives a lot more detail than an advert would, and it's not biased because it's not been written by us! The second part of the discussion is perhaps more interesting though - reviews are a vital part of the feedback we get about a show.
We need to hear what people think of the shows we make, what they liked and didn't, what worked and what didn't, because we're making the shows for our audiences, not for ourselves. We hope to challenge the audience a bit and make people think, so we need to know whether we've done that, and how effective it's been, as well as the simpler question of 'did you enjoy it'.

And just like there are two reasons we need good theatre reviews, there are two main groups of reviewer out there - and they don't always seem to be the best of friends unfortunately. The main papers all have arts sections, publishing several reviews a day written by an army of freelance and salaried reviewers. These reviewers spend a lot of time watching and writing about shows, and they're paid for it. And they sometimes seem to think themselves superior to the other camp of theatre reviewers - the bloggers. The internet has opened up a whole new way for people to air their opinions and to have their say - just like I'm doing now - and so it's not surprising that people want to write about shows they've seen. After all, it's often a bad sign if people don't want to talk about a show they've just seen, even if they didn't like it!

Blogs tend not to have such strict word limits as the print media has to impose so as to fit the story on the page, so they can, and often do, go into a lot more detail - which is be a lot more useful to us when we want to know what people really thought about a show. Some people say that as the bloggers tend not to be professional critics, their reviews are not as well informed and so not as good - but I'd say RUBBISH - you don't need to be a professional critic to know what you thought of a play, and as most of us in the audience aren't professional critics either it's pretty useful to hear the opinions of people like us when we read about a show.

That's not to say that we don't need the well established critics to keep writing in the papers - those guys bring a different perspective when they write up a show, and we need to hear as many different points of view as possible. And that's why I think it's a bit sad that the critics and the bloggers are often portrayed as being in competition and as enemies - personally, I think we as theatre goers benefit from as much diversity as possible. After all, I'll get twice as good an idea about whether a show is worth seeing if I can read two reviews instead of one!

A few interesting theatre review blogs - we're trying to keep this Metta likes... column more of a forum for our general musings than a place to publish write-ups of specific shows, but do let us know in the comments if you've seen anything really great, it's always good to hear what other people have liked!
There Ought to be Clowns
London Theatre Blog
British Theatre
West End Whingers
Gari Davies
Encore Theatre Magazine

Have you seen one of our shows recently - leave a comment to let us know what you thought. Are you a reviewer or a blogger - what made you want to become a critic, why do you think public criticism is so important? Do we need both critics and bloggers?

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