Despite what some people think, I do actually write positive reviews sometimes. There is nothing more lovely than receiving a message from an actor, writer or producer thanking me for a wonderful review of their show. However it’s always an amusing notion that they are thanking me, when all I have done is talk about the show they have worked so hard on putting together.
A comment I find made about me quite regularly on social media is the idea that I purposely give vastly different opinions on shows just to stand out from the crowd and cause controversy. For example, recently Show Boat received 4 and 5* reviews across the board and the press couldn’t rave highly enough about it. I gave it a modest, yet perfectly good 3* (I even went back to see it a second time and so I by no means hated it). Because my thoughts didn’t match everyone else’s, I received some negative feedback, which is fine as everyone is entitled to their own opinion.
I do wonder though, if every reviewer had to take a truth pill when writing their reviews, would they still say the same things? I have lost count of the amount of times people who write for major websites/publications have told me that their motto when reviewing is “if you don’t have anything positive to say, don’t say anything at all” and so they instead focus solely on the positive points. Is that fair on the reader who is trying to weigh up in their minds whether to spend their hard earned money on a ticket? I don’t think so.
Reviewing shows is difficult. You want to be 100% honest about what you thought but need to also be constructive and explain exactly what you did/didn’t think worked well and perhaps how you could see it being done in other ways. If I give constructive criticism, it is in the hope that the person it is about will take the information on board and consider whether, in fact, there is something in their show or performance that should be changed to make it better.
A few years ago, I reviewed a show and gave some constructive criticism about what didn’t work particularly well. A year passed and I received an email from the performer of this cabaret to say that they had taken my comments into consideration, made some adjustments to the show and just received their first 5* review! It’s always lovely to hear that your comments have been taken on board and not just swept under the carpet. But are reviews these days just becoming generic write up’s of shows because people are scared to be honest about how they really feel?
If you give a great performance or put on a brilliant show then well done you. It’s a lot of work and blood sweat and tears will have gone in to it. That’s why it’s funny when people send me messages thanking me for a positive review. They’re the ones who have done all the hard work, I am just being honest about what I saw. Perhaps, because I am always honest and you never know what my reviews will read like (unlike some websites who air on the side of caution, always careful not to upset anyone) people are genuinely happy because they know I really did like it.
I always say something along the lines of, don’t thank me, thank yourself and give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done.