Saturday, February 01, 2014

So what do you think of it so far?

You know the first night went well when your director posts as facebook status: What a freakin awesome night. MEDIA MONSTERS is a smash. 
At the end of the first week we haven't seen the Alma feedback forms but if it's like the emails and texts we're getting, praise is trending. As in: "Thoroughly enjoyed the performances. Great fun, great writing and a quality production from a talented cast. Totally surpassed my expectations. A wet night in January well spent. :)"
Audiences are growing ~ Saturday was cusp of sell-out ~ but still one more week if you haven't yet booked.  Alma Tavern does pretty good pre-theatre meals too, I recommend the trout.

On the subject of feedback, which is audience reviewing really, Rosie and I went along to a Theatre Bristol Writers discussion posted by Richard Aslan as "about theatre and writing" before the show on Friday. We expected a focus on scripts when we joined a circle of about 20 in the stygian gloom of the Old Vic basement where Richard is a writer-in-residence, but the activity in question ~ in fact, under challenge ~ was writing about, not for, performance: viz, reviewing plays.  After a lot of unpacking, agendas became clearer: Tom Wainright, also a writer-in-residence, organises a network of reviewers to comment on Bristol shows on facebook ~ he wants them non-disparaging but Richard wants them non-existent. After all, bad reviews can kill a show, can’t they? That appeal was to Ali Robertson, Director of Tobacco Factory, who demurred. "We find reviews have no significance on sales. Twitter traffic will make more effect than Lyn Gardner."
So why do we need reviews at all? Answers were readily forthcoming: Archives for the company, reference for venues considering a booking, verbal snapshots for promotion.... nothing converted Richard from his aversion. “Critical writing doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. What do writers want in response to their work?”  “Praise,” replied Tom, reasonably.  Sharon Clark developed this: “It's a spread of response. Some will hit hard, and teach the writer a lot - others will love it... Twenty years ago we had 4 newspaper reviewers. Now it’s much more responsive and I think that’s fine, whether it’s Lynn Gardner or Joe Bloggs.”  Ali agreed: “The few voices on a pedestal have been replaced by a multiplicity of voices ~ and good on them. In future, theatre-makers will regard writing about theatre as part of their practice,” which is such a good point we could have ended the meeting on that note and all had a cup of coffee.
But we meandered on and finally came full circle with Richard reiterating "I don’t think a critic is an artist." And then on a personal note “It gets my gall - what right have they to judge my work?" to which Rina Vergano sensibly replied “Because you’ve put it out there for people to pay to see."
And there the debate ended, unsummarised.  Credit to BOV for getting a network of theatre makers and writers together, but quenching subjective opinions would be a Canute project even without internet. We all make judgements based on personal responses every day, and writing is a creative and positive way to process experience.  Lynn on her shaky pedestal and Joe Bloggs in the street can say what they think, and so can we all. 

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