A quick plug for my colleague Karen Fricker’s event, being held at the Royal Court on Monday at 6.00, which will debate the relative merits of the professional theatre critics and the amateur bloggers. In the last few years, the blogosphere has come to contribute significantly to the reception of new theatre, the exchange of ideas, and the general commentary on the direction of the theatre. In Britain we have the West-End Whingers a couple of irreverent gay men (I think) who write wittily and candidly about the many plays they see, in between bottles of red wine. But we’ve also seen Encore, London Theatre Blog, London Theatregoer and some excellent individual blogs by theatremakers like Chris Goode, James Martin Charlton, Fin Kennedy, Paul Miller, and so on.
The critical establishment are appalled. These bloggers don’t follow the rules; they are disrespectful towards the sacred cows, they are not chummy with the leading lights of the theatre world, they even review previews, which is Not Done. This may all be a good thing: (a) many of our critics have been doing their jobs for a very long time (many of them around 40 years) and they haven’t bothered to let their ideas develop and the theatre changes, (b) the theatre in this country is reviewed both too formulaically and too generously. Much of what passes for theatre is terrible and critics should say so.
On the other hand, the critics are professional, have a professional ethic, experience, responsibility and accountability. Bloggers, many of whom are anonymous like Encore and the Whingers, can’t in any sense be held accountable for their actions. And, as the vulgar phrase has it, opinions are like arseholes: everybody’s got one. Having an opinion does not entail that it’s right to broadcast that opinion.
Anyway, these questions and more will be discussed on Monday night at the Royal Court. Karen previews the event on the Guardian blog here.