BLOG: The right to write reviews

It surprised me recently that a review that one of my team wrote of a West End show hit a nerve with a couple of people who chose to email me to express their unhappiness that the review failed to mention one of the actors in the cast. I don’t specify to those who review shows for me that they have to make reference to everyone in the show unless they really want to. I know from personal experience over the years that it can be frustrating to try to think of something to say about all of the lead characters, just for the sake of covering all bases. Everyone likes to write differently, different styles and different areas of shows that people are interested in (some might lean more towards the musical direction, the direction or the choreography).

I like to give my reviewing team the freedom to write their reviews without too much pre-determined structure or layout that I ask them to follow. My only real requirement is that they are honest and justify any criticisms they might have. I always say “so long as you could stand face to face with the person you are talking about and explain your views to them, its fine” (I myself have had to justify myself to actors face to face before). If I read a review and don’t think the star rating the reviewer has given, matches the feeling I get from reading the review then I will go back to the person reviewing and ask them to add an extra sentence or two to justify the rating. Believe it or not, it is usually that they have given a higher star rating that I think the review reads as worthy of and more often than not they reply saying they just felt bad giving a lower star rating.

Sometimes I think I am one of the last remaining websites out there that really encourages honest reviews. I know (sadly) of several other websites out there that will increase a star rating a reviewer has given, or even heavily edit someone else’s writing because they ‘don’t want to be too negative about a person or a show’. That just isn’t me or the motto for If you come to me to have a show reviewed then you can expect a 100% honest account of what I (or one of my reviewers) really thought of the show. Because what is the point of pretending it was better than it really was?

Let me know what you think on Facebook and Twitter. Do you think reviews should be 100% honest so long as they are justified or should we be nice so as not to hurt anyones feelings?