InsightsReviews

Taming of the shrewd reviewer

By February 26, 2020 No Comments

The world is full of so much stuff. So much art, so many plays, so much music, so many restaurants – and so little time.

To help us with our choices and our indecision, a breed of people has evolved who we call ‘reviewers’. They have been around for a while.

Don’t even get me started on social influencers! To quote our designer Kate, “They can all get in the sea.”

Of course, the problem is we don’t all like the same stuff. I really like Jay Rayner as a reviewer of food but he apparently likes raisins so therefore cannot be trusted.

So who should we trust when it comes to professional theatre critics? And do note that they have come to be known as critics which kind of implies that they are out to criticise.

Here’s another question for you. When you are deciding whether or not to buy a ticket, should you read the reviews first and if you do, will it, should it, influence you decision to go?

Actor Paul Ready as Petruchio

Paul Ready as Petruchio (Credit – Johan Persson)

A hardy bunch of us set off on Sunday to see The Taming of the Shrew at the gloriously atmospheric Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. My ticket was a present and I hadn’t visited the theatre before and the gift shop is awesome so I was cheerful enough even though I had been warned by birthday girl Lizzie that the reviews were dreadful.

In fact, she apologised in advance. To the point where I questioned why I didn’t know she was the Director (she wasn’t but she could have had a good crack at it I think).

It was, apparently, ‘a hard to follow production’, ‘disappointingly underdeveloped’, ‘flat insults, bland puns and painful verse’, ‘few redeemable qualities’ and (ouch) ‘This production makes his words as dry as flaking skin, and somewhat less entertaining to pick at.’

There had clearly been some ‘interesting’ directorial decisions made here. Apparently, the actors were not cast into named parts until well into rehearsal. OK, there might be a point to that.

The tricky ending where Kate completely submits to Petruchio was delivered without a hint of sarcasm or irony or anything that would cause we modern people to question the extreme and worrying misogynistic themes of the play. And then it just stopped. No jig.

The on-stage musician was jolly but sometimes inaudible and there were some very odd stompy moments…

BUT the entertaining volunteer steward who had such trouble with five tickets being presented at once was a laugh, as was the audience member who opened and ate a crunchy, rustling flapjack about two meters from the actors.

It did pass the acid test for me though. No irritable leg syndrome despite a seat with no back and there was some good acting especially from Paul Ready (watch him as Kevin in Motherland).

Dad used to say. “Better out than in.” As in go out and experience the world rather than stay in and not.

I had a great day which the reviews, had I read then before, during or after, couldn’t spoil. So there!

 

FYI – here’s some other reviews.

Les Mis – “witless and synthetic entertainment”

Starlight Express – “A confusing jamboree of piercing noise.”

The Crucible – “Interesting at times, but nevertheless a bore.”

The Mousetrap – “It won’t run that long. Eight months perhaps.”

Look Back in Anger – “self-pitying snivel”

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