Reading Reviews

17 Oct

Every artist knows there’s an art to reading reviews.

(Or maybe not an art. Maybe there’s a wine list. Or should be.)

But as a writer about theatre, I have a confession: I enjoy reading reviews of plays after I’ve seen them.

I know this makes nonsense of the idea that reviews are consumer advice. (My attending of theatre is rather like drinking from some random bottle I find under the sink – and then reading the label.)

I avoid reviews before seeing the play because everything feels like a spoiler.

I like to sit down to Hamlet and be surprised. “Oh, it’s in Swahili this time.”

I like to read reviews after I’ve seen the play because I don’t particularly want to know about the play. (I’ve seen it.) I want to know about the reviewer.

Or more precisely, I want to know about another person. I want to know what they value.

Because we do value different things. In aesthetics. In morality. In politics.

There is a danger to living in a pluralistic society that openly acknowledges this: we can forget to be truly amazed at how varied is the human experience. We can reduce the idea we value different things into a mere truism. But each one of us gazes through a different window. To……….. where?  I want a peek.

Reviewers say ‘Have a look through this window.’ And I want to thank them for that.

And to mix imagery, and to return to artists, let me conclude with this:

Putting on a production is like firing up a particle accelerator.  You get a small number of very excited particles and send them hurtling at a larger, more inert mass. Then, after the collision, you know more about the universe.

Veronica Kaye

Note: The image is Paul Gilchrist reading a review to an interested friend.

One Response to “Reading Reviews”

  1. Gina October 17, 2013 at 12:20 pm #

    The intrinsic curiosity about the person behind the review is almost like the anticipation of opening a gifted box in wrap and ribbon. What is in the box? What is behind the reviewers perception from their experience of the play? So many variable reviews, anything is possible. I wonder if by reading a review we seek to find what could be done better, or what could be improved or done differently in the play? Constructive criticism (if at all evident in the review) is indeed a peek from another window.

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