Reviewing in crisis

Thursday 1st June 2023

Critics: essential equipment
Click Image to Enlarge

One of the great improvements in today’s theatre is the growth in the number and quality of theatre reviewers, and of theatre reviewing. But this has also created a paradoxical situation. When theatre reviewers now set out to review a show, little do they know that the show they are about to review — the play or musical — has already been reviewed by another reviewer: yes, and by another reviewer. And by yet another reviewer. It is all reviewed out. Indeed, reviewing, when viewed in Darwinian terms, is clearly approaching a crisis. Reviewers are finding that almost everywhere has already been reviewed. Reviewers are forever bumping into one another, stepping on the toes of other reviewers. There are reviewer jams in foyers and in theatre stalls, in crowded theatre bars. Weighed down by their reviews, reviewed shows stagger from theatre to theatre. Reviewers are now being reviewed by fellow reviewers, and are doing the same thing back. Returning from reviewing, reviewers discover that they themselves had just had their work reviewed, sometimes by the very reviewer that they themselves had once reviewed! How can this crisis in reviewing be resolved? It could only be resolved when enough reviewers find reviewing a waste of time, and stop doing it. Then, for a while, reviewing would become worth doing again. But reviewers have plenty of time to see shows — it is all they have plenty of, and there is nothing else to do with it — so they just go on reviewing.

• With apologies to the late Martin Amis.

© Aleks Sierz

Leave a Comment!

Fields marked with * are mandatory

Join my email club

I'll let you know by email whenever I add new content to the site: