March 4, 2007

Comments, Forums and Watering Holes…

joshua judkins   posted 27 Feb 2007, 11:58 PM / edited 28 Feb 2007, 05:17 PM

Greetings All!

I noticed that these comments by David Lawrence and Moya Bannerman (below) had dropped off the radar due to being attached to a review rather than posted on the discussion forums, so I thought I’d re-post them here (hope this is okay guys) and lend my support to what they have to say.

[Fine by me – the reviews in question include INTERVIEWS WITH THE UNIVERSE, THIS IS NOT A MEDICAL SATIRE, AN ELEPHANT NEVER FORGETS …  and can be accessed by using the Seach box on the home page – JS]

I think the number of responses the reviews on John’s site have garnered is a testament to how many practitioners are actually reguarly checking up on it – bloody brilliant that an initiative to create a drinking-hole of sorts for NZ theatre types to interact online has actually got off the ground!

Now I’d love to see it used as such – which was somewhat what prompted my potentially somewhat banal and not very serious, artistic or acaedemic “What have you seen in the fringe?” topic. As well as providing a centralised point for reviews and allowing us to respond to them, Mr Smythe has given us an opportunity to chat amongst ourselves totally independent of himself. Now that I’ve typed that out it sounds really obvious and matter of fact – I’m not meaning to patronise anyone, simply encourage one and all to ask what you’ve always wanted to ask and rant about what they’ve always wanted to rant about.

What’s the worst that could happen? Really offending the wrong people in a very small industry and finding it  hard to ever get work in this town again? Well, maybe it’s not surprising more people aren’t speaking up… and on that note, I’ll stop my own rant and go get some sleep.

Let’s recap:

David Lawrence – posted 26 Feb 2007, 05:58 PM

Erm, let’s lay off bashing John for a bit, please? There have been several posts lately that well surpass any perceived ‘nastiness’ in the content of John’s reviews (and I’m not necessarily attacking anyone above personally – I could have attached this post to several different threads over the past week). Yes, we’re all entitled to our opinions, and yes, in the past I’ve seen John slate shows I’ve enjoyed and rave about shows I’ve thought were absolute shit BUT during Fringe time the fact remains that John is the ONLY PERSON reviewing ALL of these shows, while the rest of us may only see a handful of shows (or perhaps even just one) and therefore have no context to measure them against. I’m sure one particular script or actor or production may seem great if it’s the only thing you see, but when you’re giving up your time to see as many as four shows per night every night of the week, you cannot help but compare the standards of one show against another.

In this day and age, when arts coverage is a low priority for The Dominion Post and where the Capital Times’ theatre reviews are bound by space limits, we should be grateful that John is taking the time – unpaid – to see all of these productions and get reviews of them up on the ‘site as quickly as possible, whether we agree with his opinions or not. If it weren’t for John, many of the shows in this year’s (and previous years’) Fringe Festivals would have had NO COVERAGE AT ALL.

It’s also worth pointing out that, since he has financed it entirely off his own back, this is essentially John’s site (even though he has established it for the greater good of the NZ theatre community/industry) and he can say what he likes. You wouldn’t log onto someone’s personal blog and post stuff like “Your review is bullshit”. This is not an industry for the faint-hearted or weak-willed, and there’ll always be someone who won’t get or like what you’re doing, so just take the criticism, or ignore it, or whatever. Let’s by all means enter into conversation and debate and discussion and disagree about plays & productions, but can we do it in an intelligent and adult manner, and without turning it into a personality attack on the reviewer?

Moya Bannerman – posted 26 Feb 2007, 08:24 PM

Yay to David – it had to be said. This site is not a garbage dump.

My feeling was – is – that such comments as those posted above his, and some elsewhere, are so incoherent they speak for themselves. They certainly do no favours to the show they hope to defend.

John’s obviously happy for people to express differing opinions, he wouldn’t have added this facility otherwise, and he knows he’s not infallible. But like David says, let’s keep it constructive and about the work, not the people.

Super Dooper    posted 28 Feb 2007, 09:46 AM / edited 28 Feb 2007, 10:55 AM

Obviously the readership audience for this site is smaller and more specialised than, say, that of, and offending people in and around the theatre scene is easy to do. From battlers to divas, people involved in this particular art form are legendarily quick to take exception to others’ opinions. However, these folk are the same ones who, bleary-eyed and loquacious, take the piss out of other practitioners at closing night gatherings everywhere from Bulls to Courtenay Place.

Discussion is happening on this site, I just hope it doesn’t become a place to bitch/defend and repeat. There’s a play in this…

Clare bear           posted 28 Feb 2007, 03:13 PM / edited 28 Feb 2007, 05:14 PM

A play could be made of this blog I agree super dooper. I have to admit I have only seen one show in the festival and that was the cakes which was brilliant. The link that Joshua gave in regards to a show called interviews with the universe was amusing. Im not sure if joshua got the write review as there was no personal attack that I could see. Is there anything wrong with feedback on feedback?. The whole idea of these blogs is for expression. The conversations that have been linked seem to contradict each other. Its refreshing to see people respond to reviewers anyway. I think swear words is a bit much but the people commenting on this above were swearing themeselves ?  Super dooper here the play has some strength. This site is a leap foreward for free thinking and good on John for making it happen. I now must go to get the last of this wellington fringe fest! Hotel I have been told is excellent.  

joshua judkins   posted 28 Feb 2007, 05:08 PM / edited 28 Feb 2007, 05:14 PM

Hey Clare bear – John [the ed.] added the link to my comment, he got the wrong review, however – these comments came from the review for “This is not a Medical Satire”. The comments were not simply regarding that one, but retorts across a number of reviews…

John Smythe      posted 28 Feb 2007, 05:25 PM  

Thanks Josh – I’ve revised the link info. On the question of “offending people” – I say be brave and be honest, embracing the rigorous pursuit of excellence in a spirit of contribution, of course. More than once I have feared I might hurt a playwright, for instance, only to be thanked by them for supporting what they too had felt, or been battling for from what they had felt was a lonely place. 

Steph Walker     posted 4 Mar 2007, 11:50 AM

I find this topic an interesting one as I have often wondered if, at times, there needs to be more criticism, rather than softly treading around the subject, as if supporting new works, for example, purely means a pat on the back for getting a show seen in the first place. How are playwrights, directors, actors, producers and everyone else involved in this complicated production process going to learn?

As someone who has been involved in many of these capacities, I so often heard complimentary comments about shows, when what I really wanted is to know what could have been better! It is one of a reviewer’s roles to do this, and these forums and the show comments section offer a valuable resource to see areas where practitioners can improve, and also to see what audience members actually think, and like!

Yes, criticism should be constructive, and we all appreciate some well thought witty banter. But I hope no one is put off commenting just because they don’t feel they can compete with all you well educated well spoken people I read frequently on this site. The more that everyone comments, the better (and wider) the theatre view will be. And I think this is a very valuable thing to have indeed.

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