• Reviewer Ponderings

    Over the past years there have been a number of moves in some quarters to sideline the role of the “Reviewer”. National newspapers are not the only area where we have seen staff reviewers being given the boot though in fairness it is only other reviewers who seem to worry – no national marches on the West End by disgruntled audiences fearing the decline of professional opinions!

    Yesterday there was a new move. We’d received confirmation of Press Nights at our local major theatre, the beautiful Bristol Hippodrome, and indeed, confirmation and reminder for the Blood Brothers Press Night only a few days away when we suddenly got an email telling us that we were no longer invited.

    Why? Well, it would appear that the production company, Bill Kenwright Ltd in this instance, no longer wanted any reviewers from national publications to attend their Press Nights! And it was not just next week’s show but all shows they have coming up including La Cage aux Folles, Joseph and Dreamboats and Petticoats.

    Given that the tours are national it seems like an odd call to only allow local press in as with a Tuesday Press Night and a Thursday publication date the review cannot affect sales that much and will be lost on audiences at the next venue or later in the tour. A national publication, on the other hand, can add benefit to all of the remaining tour dates.

    Production companies are more than happy to splash the star ratings and quotes from national reviews on their posters and in their press releases but perhaps they think replacing “4* Really Good Evening – The Guardian” with “5* Great Night Out – East Cheam Advertiser and Herald” will improve attendances? On their website, the production company’s Blood Brothers information headlines “***** DAZZLING – Sunday Telegraph” and “***** TERRIFIC – Sunday Express” … I wonder if they’ll add “NO COMMENT – National Publications” 🙂

    Or do they think, perhaps, that national publications are not supportive enough, too critical? That would be a shame, reviews are written on the quality of the production regardless so a good production gets a good review – personally I have seen, and reviewed, touring productions that are more than a match for the West End version I have also seen.

    Maybe the rise of “everyone is a reviewer” sites and twitter and Facebook is seen as more important – yet surely they are only part of the mix. A show can get great tweets but I have no idea if they all come from the cast and their mums – many a bad show gets great tweets for no apparent reason! More importantly, if I am planning on seeing a show and have to choose which one, I cannot rely on tweets when I can rely on a reviewer with some longevity – I will have a sense of how their taste and mine align even if its “whatever they love I’ll hate” 🙂

    Despite being a reviewer and going to a lot of Press Nights I still buy theatre tickets for shows where either I cannot get on the list (some small theatres have small lists) or I am not available on Press Night – and I base the shows I spend real money on on reviews that come from people I trust and am prepared to travel to Cardiff, London, Stratford or pretty well any venue within a 3 hour or so driving distance, and do so far more often than going to my local town theatres. Local publication reviews wont help me.

    The shame here is that we were looking forward to Blood Brothers and have always found the productions to be excellent – still you’ll probably be able to read about it in the Weston Mercury come the end of next week – I hope that helps the audiences of Glasgow, Cardiff, Milton Keynes and Dunfermline, the remaining venues of that tour. We still plan a Joseph review from paid seats but I fear the other shows we can no longer attend will lose out in our limited budget to other shows we want to see more.

    Although I cannot fathom the logic of this latest move it may, perhaps, signal the next stage in the isolation of professional reviews and reviewers. It wont break anybody’s heart but it will be a shame to lose that expertise, comment and critique ….

    Categories: Personal, Theatres

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