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Entitled to an Opinion… but…

October 30, 2013

As I often say on here, I’m pretty lucky that I get to see quite a lot of theatre as a guest of one management or another. Often, I’m invited while a show is in “preview” – sometimes early preview, but more often a day or two before press night when it has been “frozen” in its final form, no further changes made. Effectively a “full” performance.

I’ve always followed three very strict rules about posting my opinions about a show. First, it’s always been an “opinion” – never a “review” – that’s too formal for me. Second, I make it clear that if I’ve seen a show in preview, it could change – and I try to put a date on my review to make it clear just how early in the run I saw it. Third, I NEVER publish before the official “first night” date. That’s an old rule the newspaper industry still abide by, and I consider myself professional enough to do that. Besides, if the show could change, who wants to damage the box office by warning too early of something that isn’t there any more? Sure, I record that it was there, but the professional reviewers are able to update that situation when they are published.

The internet is a great place to share opinions, but just because an opinion is expressed online, doesn’t make it a “review.” If it’s published of a show that is still in the process of change, it doesn’t make it accurate for when the show opens.

By attending the first performance – whether they charge full price or not (there’s often a commercial reason there is no preview discount any more) – and slating something which only got off the technical rehearsal a few hours before, the risk is that… no… as has been demonstrated… something decent could be killed before it has its rightful chance to grow. All in the name of self-aggrandisement of a very few – a minority who really care little about the industry and the people whose jobs depend on it, to begin with.

I do wonder if one day a brave producer will take legal action against one of them, and what the fallout might be. All I am saying, is “give shows a chance.”

2 Comments
  1. October 31, 2013 10:09 pm

    Hi Steve

    You make a bold claim! We’ve never subscribed to the belief that a good show can be sunk by poor reviews, even in the preview period (‘Les Mis’ anybody?), although we can think of lots of examples of shows which were well reviewed but badly attended. We would have thought that bad word of mouth is more usually the culprit. Sounds like you are thinking of something and somebody specific here, so don’t be coy – name names! As for legal action, what would be the charge? Producers are not exactly whiter than white, witness the routine manipulation of critics quotes on posters……

    • Steve Rich permalink
      November 13, 2013 9:02 am

      Only just seen this comment at it got put in the spam tray.

      Plenty of shows that I’ve seen I don’t recognise when the reviews arrive. “Once” is the most recent, to an extent “Eternity,” “Love Never Dies” for sure. I could go back to my favourite period of the 80s for “Mutiny” and “Metropolis” or the 90s “Kiss of the Spiderwoman.”

      For libel, the defences are “truthful” and “fair comment.” Quite often I do read online chatroom comments where events have been exaggerated for maximum effect. Thus not impossible, I’d say.

      Poster manipulation has indeed happened, but has now been cracked down on, so far as I know.

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