Okay, so I recognise that I’ve just posted something that in some lights could be considered a theatre review. And as such I’ve no doubt there’ll be people who disagree with some or all of it. Fair play. That’s the nature of reviews after all, but at least I hope that the review itself is presented in a factually and grammatically accurate way.
I know a few people who have spent the last few weeks cramming their days with Fringey stuff and reviewing what they see in one or other of the many Fringe review venues. These guys are professional journalists and writers with arts backgrounds; subsequently their reviews are good ones: clear, fair and informed. However, skimming some of these sites for notices of shows I might have wanted to see, I was actually pretty shocked at the standard of some of the reviews that go up. Seriously guys, if you’re going to infuse your coruscating criticism with a sense of superior knowledge, at least get your facts right (All That Jazz is from Chicago, not Cabaret, no matter how badly it’s performed). Oh, and if you’re not sure of a word, take time to check how to spell it. I know you’re doing everything on your i-Pad this year, but there must be an app for that, surely? Oh, and the performers you’re slagging off? At least do them the courtesy of getting their names right. And, yeah, while I’m at it – have a clue about what you’re talking about. Just in general.
I’m not blaming the editors here. At the Fringe there are way too many reviews to proof each one of them. No, the onus is on the reviewers. If you’re going to take a free ticket to a show and write it up afterwards, set yourself some standards and stick to them.
That way people will pay attention to what you have to say.
4 thoughts on “Fringe reviews”
Assuming I’m one of the aforementioned “professional journalists and writers with arts backgrounds”, I couldn’t agree more — but it’s symptomatic of this increasing belief in the internet-world that anyone can call themselves a “journalist” just because they think they can string a few words together. I’ve heard of some people not submitting a review on time because they didn’t get confirmation about the names of the cast — instead of (a) doing their own bloody research to find out, or (b) rewriting the review so that the lack of names wasn’t an issue.
Despite the numbers of reviews involved, at least BroadwayBaby.com (for which I’ve been reviewing Fringe shows this year) has section subs who check each review before it goes online — and even separate editorial streams for some ratings!
That at least is conscientious on behalf of BB. I have no problem with giving people a chance, especially young people who can only learn from the experience and improve, but if that’s largely your talent pool there does need to be someone to say to them sorry, this needs done again.
Tbh, the grammatical issues annoy me less than factual mistakes that are easy to check.
In the end it’s like any other piece of writing. Don’t hit send the second you finish it. Put it away for an hour, read it again, check the facts. If a review’s poorly written, you don’t feel you can trust the writer – and therefore you can’t trust the rating either.
That’s the real concern for those review sites; if readers don’t trust the writers or the ratings, then that’s a serious blow to the whole operation’s reputation — it’s much harder to gain trust than to lose it. But you’re right; the buck stops at the reviewer. Unfortunately, some of the kids don’t seem to understand that.
I guess the balance is one of timeliness and required effort. If you check the copy of every review that comes in over the Fringe, you’re never going to publish half of them before the thing is over. Perhaps the way to do it is, for new reviewers, keep a close eye on their first few submissions until you feel you can trust them to act more autonomously, but still…