Friday, August 11, 2006


I did an email interview with a prominent playwright this week. In reading up on him I came across a story about him punching someone who had said some negative things about him. The original story I read said that he hit the guy because he had written a negative review, but the playwright insisted that the reviewer had actually made some racist remarks and that was why he'd popped him. Fair enough.

Either way, I thought I'd ask what he thought about reviewers, and his answer was "I haven't read a review in years because quite simply most reviewers can't tell the difference between the written work and the performance."

Is it just me, or is that answer a bit bigger than it first seems? In reviewing, aren't we looking at everything? We're listening to the written work and we're watching the performance. It's quite possible for an excellent script to be mangled by bad actors, but you'd probably still recognise that the dialogue was good.

And then I wondered if he wasn't somehow blaming any bad reviews on the performance. Like someone giving a bad review should be able to tell, if they had half a brain, that it wasn't the script's fault. Weird, if that's what he was saying, because he works with top flight people.

I thought it was an interesting comment anyway. Wonder what most reviewers will think about it.

Went to the opening of a play last night. Pretty bleak stuff. Good overall, just bleak. Right towards the end a pretty important prop fell down. Huge curtain pulled right across the stage just completely fell down and fucked things up. Someone was doing some death stuff or something and suddenly the audience is stifling sniggers and the actors are trying not to smirk. Funny shit.

I got an email from the company director who was one of the actors on stage at the time. She said she really wanted me to write an honest review even if it is negative. Said she saw me in the audience but didn't come out after the show because she was in hiding. Said she'll still talk to me even if I write a bad review. I think she was amused by it (the curtain played a huge part in her final scene - a death scene) but also thought it was about the worst thing that could have happened.

I thought that was a really cool thing to do. Some people are just cool in small, really cool ways. She gave me the greenlight to rip the shit out of the play, so that's what I did.



Amra Pajalic said...

That chick is really cool. I also think that comment by the playwright was interesting. At first I was like-no he's being a bit too big for his boots, but then I thought the script should be reviewed on its own merits because he doesn't have control over what actors do. It's like a novelist being held to account for a movie based on the script. Or is it? Mmmm, don't know. Changing my mind again. Haven't gone to enough plays to be able to make a judgement call.

Quick said...

I also read his comment in different ways.

Not sure about the novelist/movie comparison because a stage play is written to be performed, always with actors and direction in mind. I think a stage play is only intended to be read by cast and crew. The intention all along is for the audience to see the result of a big, collaborative process and in reviewing a play every element has to be taken into account.

More than likely he was just taking a bit of a pop at reviewers and I can kind of understand that. I still find myself wondering what the hell qualifies me to be telling readers what I thought about a play.

Guyana-Gyal said...

I wonder how he would've responded if you'd asked him what he meant, if you'd thrown all your thoughts at him. Hm...

How did the company director / actor take to your review?

Quick said...

Not sure what her reaction was GG. Haven't heard from her. In a way, I guess, I shouldn't care what she thinks because all a review is is my interpretation and my feedback, but I do hope that it was balanced. I really like that particular theatre company and want it to succeed, I just think that my job as a reviewer is to be as fair and honest as possible. I'll probably be along to another of their productions in a month's time so we'll bump into each other then.

Guyana-Gyal said...

Wellll, I hope she's not *typical female*...y'know, we say we want the whole truth and when we hear it we are not amused :-)

Quick said...

Yeah, chick. Pfft :)