I’m not normally one to quibble – well ok, I can quibble for England but that’s beside the point right now. Today I realised something rather daunting (for any reviewers that is). Reviewers have a rather large responsibility to be good writers. They have a responsibility to their readers and another to the artists waiting with nails bitten low to read what they thought of their artistic endeavours. Particularly small scale performers who are desperately waiting for a quote to stick on a funding application, a job application or their next piece of publicity. They might even be waiting for an objective view of their show – no matter how hard it may be to hear. No really! If you are a local artist performing for a couple of nights the likely hood is that most of the people who will watch you will be friends and family. It’s incredibly difficult to be totally honest with someone you that you know. In the UK, if you work outside of London or possibly some of the other major cities, it is near impossible to get bigger newspapers to see your work – you depend on the local rags to feed back to you.
Whilst I was studying theatre and performing arts, writing reviews was a regular task. For us students, seeing and evaluating other peoples work was a way of learning about what you believe works on stage, why it might or might not work and how you might see your own work critically. We were taught that the first rule of a good review was to NEVER simply list what happened or to make a value judgement without backing it up with some evidence. You had to find a concise way of describing and evaluating the piece.
So today, the 6 artists, myself included, that presented their work last Saturday received a whiff of our first (and probably only) newspaper review. I’m not claiming to be a great writer but I feel as though I should offer myself to the Arts dept of our local rag – if only to say SOMETHING… here’s the review. There’s nothing negative or positive in it – I don’t feel offended because the reviewer has been rude about my work, or hurt my feelings, I’m not feeling bitter because I have been cut down or elated because I have been picked out as a shining example of fine creativity. I feel disappointed because it’s full of nothingness. What’s more, the general public will not get any sense of what this eclectic, two and a half hour long performance was like to experience. It begs the question ‘ What are reviews for?’.