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Timely Reviews

March 2, 2011

Both regular readers of the theatremonkey.com site will know that I’ve never written a review on it. All that I’ve ever given is an “Opinion” of a production. What’s the difference? For me, a ‘review’ has to always be balanced. Ideally, it should draw on experience of previous productions of the same or similar plays, and be backed by more than just a lay knowledge of theatre in general. Since I don’t pretend to have much of the latter in particular, I’ll stick to ‘Opinions’ thanks.

Two things made me want to blog about this today. The first was the experiences of one young producer / actor who had a problem getting anyone to review his previous fringe theatre work, and wanted to try and do better for his current one. He asked if I knew how to find bloggers to do this. Aside from the famous West End Whingers, I had to admit I knew no other theatrical bloggers he could talk to. Luckily, the Whatsonstage website message board is full of them, so he has trotted happily off in that direction – and I wish him the best in that endeavour.

Second is that “The Wizard Of Oz” had its ‘press night’ last night. I saw it on the 9th February – nearly three weeks ago. My opinion, however, was only posted online today. Why didn’t I follow the blogging example and post it instantly? Reason: as my opinion clearly labels itself, I recognised and accepted that what I was seeing was a bit of a ‘work in progress’ and that things would change before the professional reviewers were invited. As it happens, I was right. A song was cut, another re-titled, and the whole show tightened slightly – from what I hear from others. My opinion notes all this, and I hope makes clear that I can only comment on what I saw back then.

So why am I so careful? I’m a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to theatre. The ‘opening night’ following previews is, for me, the polite time to make views known (unless you are in the cast / creative team of course, in which case sing out LONG before previews even start!). To comment prematurely could damage work in progress – and I couldn’t bear to harm that in the way so many early comments seemed to have tainted shows like “Love Never Dies” which, by the time I saw it a month after opening, had changed and turned into an unmissable and wonderful evening.

And just as a final question: Why did I see it so early? I was given tickets… and I’m not turning that down! Hmmm… using tickets I’ve not paid for, and abiding by the rule of not publishing before opening night… should I go back to college and get an English degree too… then I’d have the set and go ‘professional.’ On the other hand, it’s more fun being unfettered by an editor and a publisher’s politics. Still… makes you think… and that is my considered opinion on the matter, published after this page has opened to the public, of course.

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