How can we improve each others' work by being honest, when there's pressure to be polite?

Alice Nutter, 4 October 2012

On street theatre NOBODY feels pressure to be polite. People shout ‘That’s crap!'

Some artists ask for feedback, straight after a show and while the show is running is not usually the place to give negative feedback. Most of us are consumed by FEAR while thev show is running and can't hear anything but the sounds of ourselves DROWNING.

CONTEXT is everything.
First night and press night is not the time to go up and announce the ending doesn't work.

Woman ciited a show she did that didn't work. Two months after it was over her friend gave her negative feedback. Why it didn't work. She didn't sleep for two nights BUT it was a positive experience, It helped her see what didn't work and changed her approach, focused her on the work she wanted to do. Failure is only failure if we don't learn from it.

Feedback... better if it is asked for. Can be posed as questions but only if they are genuine enquiries to get to the heart of a problem: what the fuck was that? Probably isn't a helpful.

In good feedback, in trying to dissect what was wrong for the right reasons, both

parties learn.

Feedback on diverse work, made by disabled artists is often given a critique of silence. Or Wonderful or Shite, Disabled artists sometimes seen as ‘Supercrip or Scrounger.’ Embarrassment stops people from giving useful detailed critique.

Tim (Mind The Gap I think) was putting a show on in Barnsley markets, live chickens were running round the stalls. A Fella shouted ‘Bloody Students!’ it was pointed out that this was threatre makers. ‘Bloody artists!’ He was told these were disabled theatre makers: ‘Bloody wonderful!’

Dancer LIZ LURMAN has done a structured strategy for feedback - mainly cause she was pissed up with people marching up to her and telling her what they thought unasked.

Feedback more appropriate at different times, during R and D and after run has finishhed. Then it could be helpful. And if it is during a run, more appropriate to give it to director rather than actors who have to go on the next night.

Assesments and reviews different things. More possible to be straight talking in an assessment, it's a closed document and a company/artist signs up for it as part of the deal.

Reviews more difficult, so easy to destroy confidence with cruelty.

Being truthful and honest... hmmm... not always as important as being sensitive and supportative.

Useful to pick a person you trust for feedback and also we should be self evaluating. An audience gives feedback with the way it claps. GRADIENTS OF CLAPPING. Would also add that shifting in the seat and staring at the exit is quite telling.

In X factor culture of ridiculing people, the internet is the biggest VENT often not feedback just a stream of prejudices. Anonymity can lead to being horrible: own your feedback.
Age can make us more comfortable with bad feedback, one piece of unsuccessful work doesn't make us bad artists or people. We made wrong decisions. Learn and move on.

An opinion is complicated when it comes from a person linked to an organisation or a building that can effect an artist's future. Alex spoke about her role in the Playhouse the way she tries to be truthful without being discouraging.

Our reaction to feedback counts, if we are unable not to be defensive or angry we are unlikely to get helpful feedback. And if we do we won't hear it.

The crucial aspects of this discussion were never under estimate the role of KINDNESS. CRITICAL KINDNESS.

And CONTEXT is everything. Give opinions when they are asked for, with empathy and when the person you are talking to is in a frame of mind to hear it.
Worth saqying again WITH KINDNESS.


FEEDBACK, Criticism, criticism, Feedback, feedback, CRITICISM

Comments: 2

Dan Mallaghan, 9 October 2012

Wish I had been in this discussion - sounds interesting, so thought I would throw in my two pence.

I'm a nightmare when it comes to feedback - very contridictory! I'm very self critical and as result do not take compliments about work presented very well. I will constantly push people to say something negative about a production and then defend that aspect of the show to the hilt!

I think the onus for providing an environment in which honest and constructive feedback can be given lies with the person/company receiving it.

From experience, a person only really feels the need to be over polite if a) they feel as though they HAVE to give feedback immediately, b) that the person receiving it only wants a pat on the back and c) that the person receiving it will be offended by anything remotely critical.

A few years ago, I was touring a show and one of the performers was particularly sensitive to both positive and negative feedback from audiences - to the point where it had a profound effect on their performance the following evening. Audiences seemed to pick up on this when chatting to them after the show and this led to a lot of ‘over polite’ comments (which is very kind and considered of them but not very useful for us!)

As a company however, we were extremely keen to gather as much feedback as possible from our audiences to develop the work further. We started to devise and implement a number of different ways to allow our audiences to give us feedback that didnt involve them talking directly to the cast afterwards (if they didnt want to), including ways for them to feedback on the show a number of days afterwards.

These proved really successful for us and even generated a lot more honest and considered feedback than we had previously been getting.

Key to this however, we realised, was that we asked our audiences for feedback within the programme; set out the ways in which they could do this and, most importantly, permission to be as honest as they wanted - this stopped a lot of the ‘over politeness’.

Thats my two pence anyway

Alice Nutter, 9 October 2012

Dan, I wish you'd been at this discussion too. Thought it was interesting that asking for honest and not immediate feedback made audiences more likely to contribute useful things.
And I can also be very negative about my own work if somebody speaks to me straight after a performance or a transmission. Going to make a concerted effort to say NOTHING, other than, ‘yes please, a gin and tonic.’