The world of theatre is a magical thing. Some years ago now, I was gearing up to watch my first ever West End show. It was a huge deal. I felt anticipation, excitement and even nerves. I didn’t know what to expect. Little did I know just how much theatre would impact my life.
When I walked out of my first show – Rock Of Ages – I walked out with happiness. I had energy, I had the giggles. I had magic fairy dust in my eyes. I was awed. I was blown away by everything I had seen on that stage in the lovely Garrick theatre and I knew….I just absolutely knew….that I would do anything to go back to the West End.
Fast forward those years and here I am, a show obsessed thirty year old who money allowing….would see every show that has ever been made. In the last few years I have clocked up a big list of shows, mostly West End, some off the West End and some in my home town or other near locations. I have fangirled over certain actors and admired actresses. I have made best friends and I have made memories. I don’t think there are many things that feel as good as walking out of a theatre after a damn good show. It’s electric. It’s buzzing. It’s amazing.
But of course, my feelings of awe at the theatre isn’t exactly news to most of you. If you are reading this, then the likelihood is that you will know I have a huge love for anything stagey so you might be wondering why on earth I am writing about it.
Let me explain.
Theatre reviews are not a new thing. They have been around quite some time. Reviews or critics have always been a niggle to me. But it is only recently that I have really felt the need to write about it. I myself, have often written a blog on here that some people could mildly pass off as a review. A review in that I will recap the show I have seen from my own memories and give my thoughts about it all. I also read a couple of review sites every now and then where it is pretty much all positive vibes flowing through every sentence.
But right now, I am struggling with some critics and theatre reviewers. Because for as long as I can remember….or at least since I have become a bit of a theatre goer….certain ‘reviewers’ are just plain rude. Not everybody can like everything all of the time. I get that, I really do. And you know… for a lot of these people….this online criticism….these reviews….are their jobs. They get paid to write these things and tell other people about the shows. But there is such a negative current flowing on so many of these online articles about shows that I am finding it hard to stomach.
I have been to shows that I have loved with every fibre of my being and come home wanting to soak up more knowledge of the show and see if others loved it as much as I did. What I quite often find though, is very different to what I am searching for. I will find a review about a show that is written with the highest of professionalism, but sadly it will be full of reprimands and criticism. I will read with dismay as they call out a particular actor that I loved for being wooden (<<That seems to be the word for a reviewer who doesn’t like someone at the moment). I will sit in shock reading about how they thought the songs were silly or that the story line didn’t flow. Of course , I suppose it is a matter of opinion and you may be currently thinking that I an offended little snowflake who can’t bear for anyone to say something bad about who or what I like. But it’s more than that.
I am upset on behalf of everyone that it involves. To see a bad blog/review/critique upsets not only the fans who loved the show but it hurts the actors and actresses who perform their hearts out under that spotlight. For them, the weeks of rehearsals and the blood, sweat and tears they put into a performance can be broken by one cruel article. The stage hands, the lighting people, the writers, the instrumentals, the creatives backstage hands, the hair and make-up people, the front of house staff who are proudly advertising these shows…the directors and producers. These negative words are going to have an impact on everyone involved.
Picture the scene. You have just landed a new job, one that you have wanted for years. You are a receptionist (I don’t know anyone who wanted to be a receptionist for years but…ssshhhh….just go with it….) and at the end of the first day you get an email or a letter dropped on your desk. Even though you have prepared for months for this first day, even though you passed the interview with flying colours after researching the company and even though you haven’t slept for days…this email or letter contains different paragraphs from everyone you encountered on that first day.
“She answered the phone with no flare or talent.”
“Her admin skills are wooden and questionable.”
“By performing this way, she let the whole company down.”
Or maybe you are a chef. And on your very first day you get a letter from every single person you cooked for and even though you know you cooked that food the best you know how….each of these letters contain horrible remarks about just how utterly rubbish your food was that day. You could have been a chef for many years in fact, it might not be your first day at all, but you still put up with negative comment after negative comment.
Imagine going to visit your Mum and Dad and before you leave….they write you a little note saying “Not her best visit today. Largely let down by her garish outfit which just didn’t have any place in the day. Only at certain times could we understand her diction and the whole visit was quite underwhelming with no direction or purpose.” Ouch.
I know I am going to extremes with those examples but I hope I am getting to the point. It is hurtful to see such comments. It is detrimental to all who is involved in the production. It does no good.
A good example is when just a month or two ago, I got the absolute privilege of seeing Carousel with the glorious Alfie Boe as Billy Bigelow and Katherine Jenkins as Julie Jordan. Having already written a blog about my thoughts of that magical night, I won’t go into it again but I will say that I read some absolute stinking reviews of the show and the cast. Of course, I can’t be at every single show, but I have to wonder where these reviewers get their facts from sometimes. Because the night I went to Carousel and the way that audience reacted was so far off the mark from any review I read about what happened on stage and audience reaction. And a good friend of mine who has only recently visited a show happened to read a review about the same show she was at from the same day. The reviewer reported an underwhelmed audience. She recounted a standing ovation with a roaring crowd. So these people that write the negative reviews…..are they even being truthful? You have to wonder sometimes.
As I said before, these negative reviews are not a new thing to the theatre world and unfortunately, I doubt they will stop any time soon.
In all my time going to shows, I have only ever been unimpressed by two. I wouldn’t ever name those shows nor write anything bad about them because it is not my place. And because I can only imagine the hard work and dedication everyone working on those shows put in. If I have nothing nice to say, I simply shut up and say nothing. Just because I personally didn’t love it, does not mean that everyone on that stage didn’t work their arses off for the audience.
I would like anyone and everyone who has ever been involved in a show, or is currently involved, or even will be involved in the future to know that for every negative article you see online, there are in all probability hundreds of people who saw that show that very day who loved it. For every unkind word there is someone who walked out of the theatre feeling amazing because of you all. For every critique there is someone sitting at home, planning their next show because they loved the last one so much. For every time your acting or stage presence had been pulled apart, there is someone that has honestly just had a life changing few hours. For every negative writer, there are countless fans of the work that all you actors, actresses, ensembles, dancers, writers, creatives, musicians, directors, producers and many more do.
I appreciate it all. I love the way you transport me to a magical world for a while. I love the after feeling. I love planning my next trip. I love catching up with besties over a fantastic show. And most importantly…. I just love fangirling over good looking theatre men. OK, that’s not most important, but still. And I know that I am not the only one. I am a dot in many of the thousands of people you perform for who is thankful for all you do. And I sincerely hope that if you do work on a show in any way and you read a negative blog/review/article….I hope that you learn to treat whoever wrote it as a dot. Because it is just one small person. A person who has maybe got stuck in a never ending circle of depressing reviews. A person who likes to make others feel bad for their own self gain. It is just one of many. And I can assure you that ‘the many’ love what you do.
And that all brings me to the title of my blog. But who listens? Because I have never read a negative review and let it put me off going to a show. If anything, a bad review will make me determined to go and enjoy every minute of the show. And after talking about it with friends and family, it has never put them off seeing a show either. So that is what I am saying. The bad reviews will carry on regardless. But who really listens? Keep being your magical self theatre world. Many thanks.