Thursday, February 17, 2011

Bloggers: First Reviewers Or Last?

Chris Wilkinson at Guardian Online (in response to Matt Trueman and various responses):
If amateur bloggers really want to carve out a niche, then surely they should be taking advantage of the fact that they can give themselves more time and space to respond to what they have seen? Additionally, if they really are just "ordinary theatregoers", then why not go and see shows after press night, as the vast majority of people do? A show that has settled is surely a more "real" experience than one that is still tentatively finding its feet. Blogging plays an increasingly welcome and important part of the debate around theatre. But bloggers will only flourish if they find something fresh and distinctive to do.
Honestly, this is an example of "Why do we have to make the choice?"

I, personally, like writing a review within the first 24 hours, because writing the review is how I process the show. If I don't write or talk aloud to friends about the show soon after the show, it just disappears into the crevasses of my brain.

But Chris Wilkinson is also true, that bloggers have the ability to review a show later, and more in depth. Oh, and it turns out that they do -- take, for instance, George Hunka's review/analysis of Grasses of a Thousand Colors, a show which is now two years old.

It boils down to this: blogs, unlike columns in a paper, tend to primarily serve the blogger. This is part of the weakness of blogs, and also part of its recipe for success. I don't have any deadlines to make (hence sometimes I go quite silent).

You could write your review immediately, and get a snapshot of your initial impressions. The advantages are:
  • You won't overthink it.
  • You'll get a chance to crystalize your response and think through things while the memories are fresh (rather than later when your memories might become fuzzy)
  • You'll get to be part of the conversation that theater audiences use to gauge whether or not the show is worth their time -- with shows that aren't Spiderman, there's a significant difference in posting while the show is still running.
Or, you could take your time and write it at your leisure. Advantages:
  • Clearer thought with more perspective.
However, the one thing that should not be part of this equation is some producer's blatant attempt to protect shoddy work from criticism by manipulating a polite social convention to his needs. Any reasoning in favor of not reviewing a preview doesn't apply to a show like Spiderman because it's a preview in name only; the case has been made repeatedly and more eloquently.

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