On Sunday comedy critic and Guardian writer Brian Logan shared some interesting thoughts about writing a bad review over on the Guardian website. I’ve previously talked about my reaction to dealing with a less than rosy review here but I’d never really considered what it’s like to be the one dealing out the reviews.
I also recently discovered this website which hilariously collates awful online reviews of classic novels and films. But are theatre audiences too literate for such comments? Alas not. Even a cursory search on Whatsonstage.com provides examples from the pleasingly pedantic which seems to review the review itself:
to the casually misogynistic (I think this is an attempt at a joke but I’m not sure I quite get it)
I’m currently working with the brilliant Creature of London on our marketing strategy for The Hairy Ape. Our goal is simple: sell tickets. But we’ve been careful not to overestimate our audience – we’re not going to please absolutely everyone. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try!
Since last posting about a less than positive review we’ve got a rather fantastic notice from the New York Times.
It praise Rosie’s “captivating performance” and Jenny Turner’s “delightful” animation, but it stresses Jack’s “acute ear” and the way he captures “Britain in the throes of seething ethnic strife.” And I absolutely agree.
We’re also one of the NYT’s Critics’ Picks, which puts us rather alongside shows like Billy Elliot and The Book of Mormon!
If you’re in New York between now and Sunday, check out Bunny at 59E59 Theaters to see what they mean.
Of course, given the above list, Bunny might be the only one you’ll get tickets for…
I had a great debate today with the fantastic PR at the Soho Theatre about the press night for Bunny. I’d wanted to book it in for Thursday 13th October, but Amy pointed out the numerous clashes scheduled already (the Bush, Trafalgar Studios 2, Royal Court, Lyric Hammersmith, RSC and more all open shows that week) and persuaded me that it’d be better to invite reviewers to attend when they could. If they wanted to, of course.
As more and more shows keep opening (and so often open in the same four week cycles), the press diary maintained by the Society of London Theatre looks full however far in advance you try to plan, so it’s increasingly difficult to get all the reviewers in at the same time. But does this matter?
Well, yes and no. No, in that a good review is a good review. If you’re looking to the long term, no one is going to care whether the review came out in the first week or the last week of your run. Critical thumbs up is still a great way to strengthen your profile (be that as a director, writer, actor or producer). But yes, in that reviews can sell tickets. Perhaps. For small shows on the Fringe with limited runs reviews are a useful tool to publicise your show quickly to its audience. Even shows in the West End can often be hurt or helped by them. A high critical approval rating can translate into ticket sales, especially when a few extra seats makes all the difference. Luckily that was my own experience working on Blue Surge at the Finborough. There, with only 50 seats to sell, positive reviews definitely made a difference.
Of course, Bunny has already got fantastic reviews, both in Edinburgh and on its UK tour. But there are still reviewers who haven’t given their verdict, just like there are lots of people who haven’t seen the show yet.
It looks like we won’t be holding an official press night. But you can bet anything that I’ll be urging reviewers to come along as early as possible if they can.