August 15, 2007

Should criticism be challenged?

John Smythe      posted 31 Jul 2007, 05:52 PM / edited 31 Jul 2007, 05:52 PM

I say theatre practitioners – and audience members – have every right to challenge criticism.

In a post to the ‘Some thoughts on Pseudonyms’ forum, Dane Giraud writes:

“We do not have the right to challenge criticism. When writers, actors and directors start to challenge criticism our craft disintegrates. We start to hate the audience. We start to call them stupid. I say harden up. We all get slammed on occasion. It’s funny. Don’t cry about it. It’s only theatre…”

But we theatre critics are not referees or umpires. We do not have the authority to make declarations. We make assertions and advance opinions that should be backed up with evidence, examples and/or coherent argument, and where they are not, we should be called to account.

To pick up on a metaphor used by another contributor, we may be equated with witnesses, advocates, judges and/or juries in a court of public opinion – and of course the determinations of this court may be challenged/appealed, like any other in the land.

In particular factual errors should be corrected in the interests of historical accuracy, and converse viewpoints should be offered in the interests of fairness and balance. The latter is one reason this site publishes more than one review, where possible, because it’s all a conversation and the more people who participate, the better.

There is absolutely no reason that such dialogue should disintegrate into hating the audience or calling them stupid. It’s all about respect for the craft and each other.  

nik smythe          posted 31 Jul 2007, 07:39 PM


Dane Giraud       posted 3 Aug 2007, 12:04 PM

But we theatre critics are not referees or umpires. We do not have the authority to make declarations….

See, I think that you DO have the authority to make declarations. Or at least should be is a position to trust your own craft enough to feel comfortable doing so. If a critic writes a review knowing that what he writes is his truth and not a universal truth then why is he writing? It’s all a bit Oprah isn’t it? Good exists. Bad exists. No?

The fact is that many of our shows, films, books etc. get off pretty light. Is that helpful? Critic’s and practitioners are in a partnership to make the work better surely. There will be tears in such a collaboration – and great results surely…

Aaron Alexander              posted 15 Aug 2007, 09:13 AM / edited 26 Aug 2007, 03:14 PM

The key thing that you have as a critic is a measure of impartiality. As actors receiving a bad review of a show we’re actually involved in, we are anything but impartial. Reading a bad review can be a painful emotional experience, taking us beyond the point of rationality. Well, it has been to me! In that case, I feel we would be ill-advised to engage in any sort of challenge to a critics opinion. The exception being, of course, if a factual error has been made.

However, as an independent practitioner/industry member, we have every right to challenge, engage in dialogue with a critic regarding their opinion on a show we weren’t involved in producing. That’s only natural, surely?

Are you inviting forum debate of the reviews on the site, John ? 😉

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