Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Reviewing the reviewer: I have no heart.

Celia McBride responds to my review of So Many Doors in a letter to the Globe:
I have to admit I was awestruck by reviewer J. Kelly Nestruck's lack of emotional reaction to my play So Many Doors (All The Right Stuff, Yet So Unmoving - Review, June 14). We've met audience members unable to speak after the show, sobs still caught in throat, eyes puffy from crying - truly moved. [Read on.]
I know many playwrights/directors/actors are hesitant to respond to reviews, fearful that it makes them look unprofessional or touchy, but I'm in favour of dialogue about theatre in general...

Speaking of, Marty Bragg's response to my review of My Name is Rachel Corrie - in which I called him "faint-hearted" for backtracking on producing the play - is here.

Double speaking of: Anthony Neilson responds to Michael Billington's one-star review of his new play Relocated:
This is the great danger of the play-as-thesis. It assumes that the play is an expression of the playwright's character. And, since playwrights desire approval as much as the next person, it leads to dishonest and complacent work. A play should reflect life as the playwright sees it - not as they, or anyone else, wishes it to be. If one sees a world in which there are no permanent truths, it is dishonest to fabricate them for the sake of approbation. Worse, it is a dereliction of duty. A play-as-thesis is by nature reductive, an attempt to bring order to the unruliness of existence. But bringing order is the business of the state, not the artist.

10 comments:

megan said...

I'm with you, I think dialogue is great.

I love debating these things and am fully aware that people see and approach things differently.

I like seeing more than one angle.

Anonymous said...

You may have no heart, JK, but your mind is big enough. Mighty decent of you to let these 2 folks have the last word.

Anonymous said...

I've read a lot of reviews that seem like an attempt on the part of the critic to exhibit their knowledge of theatre, or to congratulate themselves by reaffirming a claim they've made about a particular artist in a past review, or to argue in print (and at the expense of the play) with another reviewer whose reviewing style or tastes they dislike and wish to attack. I've often thought that reviews are the whimsical response of the critic not to the work but to their own unexpressed feelings towards the artists. I've read a lot of reviews that don't reflect my experience of the audience's response to a piece. And I've heard playwrights respond in private to reviews in much the same terms that Celia does here, and I've supported them. But I agree with you about Celia's play.

Anonymous said...

Bragg's letter employs a handy little rhetorical device called "changing the subject". Nice try, Marty.

Anonymous said...

I agree with anonymous. Bragg's a tool. Let's wait until Tuesday morning to see how many Dora's CanStage actually wins.

Anonymous said...

Dora noms are as easy to catch as crabs.

Philip Akin said...

Anonymous said...

Dora noms are as easy to catch as crabs.
=================================
hmmmmmmm not so much. Having been a juror one year and seeing over 80 shows I would suggest that as flawed as the system is, getting to the top 5 level is usually a worthy accomplishment.

Anonymous said...

Cushy at the Post today doesn't seem to think so.

MK Piatkowski said...

Loved your fringe preview. Why is Barry doing Keir' show? What happened?

Anonymous said...

Newspaper reviewers have greater access to the public ear than theatre artists. What three thousand people might see in an entire run, three hundred thousand can read about in the press. The imbalance between the actual creation and someone's published opinion of it is pretty clear. Artists are rendered accountable but are never afforded a defense of their work. If reviewers were being honest they would acknowledge their power over artists. If they were being responsible, they would wield that power carefully, thoughtfully. Artists are accountable to audiences; reviewers are supposed to be the voice of an audience. If the audience likes the show, the reviewer must acknowledge that. It's not opinions they should be writing; it's news. Whether a play is good or bad, in one person's opinion, is irrelevant. We want to know what a reviewer saw, not what they thought about it. If you report a car accident, you can colour it any way you want, but you can't say it was not very satisfying, or missing certain elements.