Merge Alert: #1 - How do we measure Success and how do you know when you have achieved it? #2 How do you get where you want to without kissing ass or being a twat? #3 The 4/5* review; is this the Holy Grail?

Alison Farina, 2 July 2012

Annette Chown and I merged our groups to address all these topics together. We went through each subject almost simultaneously as we went on. For the purpose of these notes, I've separated them into headings, but each subject informs the other, which is why we merged in the first place.


#1 - How do we measure Success and how do you know when you have achieved it?

What is success? In what terms are we even addressing this? As an artist? As an individual? As a company? Success in what exactly?

Is success making £30k a year? (Maybe.)
Is success having Tom Morris court you and your work? (It certainly wouldn't hurt.) Success can be as simple as meeting new people or improving your skills

Success, if it can be measured, can be looked at:
Internally - What did you learn? (This is more sustainable) Did you achieve a goal? Externally - \both uncontrollable and based on other people's perception. Validation and recognition. What does this really do for you? Make you feel ‘important’? Is that


Do you have to sell out (either artistically or in ticket sales) to get there?

" keeps coming back to money“ - Seth Honour

We all do this because we love it. It's not about the money, but we all want to be able make a living from doing what we love. If we can't make ends meet, we risk leaving the business.

What are the long-term effects on the quality of work in the industry if talented people leave because they can't earn enough money to live?

Phelim: Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life by Adam Phillips, Defines what you want to do.

Success is not linear and can't be measured by progression. Success is getting what you don't expect.

Why have a label of ‘successful’? Where does this even come from?

”Failing can be better for you“ - Hannah Drake

”Success and Failure are intrinsic to the learning experience“ - Matilda

If you are doing an experiment, know it's an experiment BEFORE starting out. Give yourself the right to fail and know what you are measuring. What is the experience

Don't use Experimentation as an afterthought or pass it off as excuse for shit.

Success is imperfection.

Work is what it is. Why do we have to apologize?

”It's the grit in the oyster that makes the pearl“ - Ali Roberston

By striving for success you loose connection to yourself. You can be driven mad trying to repeat something perfect.

What's exciting is seeing something in someone.

Hold on! What about Craft?

Lots of talk of the work being ‘what it is’ but what happens when technique and craft are compromised for the ‘experience’ of it?
Ali Roberston

”Take your craft to a place where it might happen“

Phelim: The Radiant Performer: The Spiral Path to Performing Power
H. Wesley Balk (artistic director of The Minnesota Opera) book I use with actors

”I think I might be this, but this is what I am?“ Phelim

There is something admirable about things that are good but not BRILLIANT, gives you somewhere to get to as you strive for brilliance. Ali Roberston

#2 How do you get where you want to without kissing ass or being a twat?

Do you bother visualizing where you want to be at all? Is it just not even worth it? Do you just enjoy the moment?

What do venue directors/artistic directors/programmers look for?

As a programmer you want to give people more than what they bargained for so they come back. Andy Burden

We know everything is a work in progress.

Combination of gut instinct and good work in the proposal. - Ian McGlynn

Don't underestimate the power of gossip, both positive and negative - Ali Robertson.

A show has to stand out. By STAND OUT, that could mean anything really. An X factor, ephemeral and subjective concept, but that can be narrowed down to an artists truth in the piece or a venue's ‘personality’ of programming.

It really comes down to taste.

#3 The 4/5* review; is this the Holy Grail?

We all want a review that gives you THAT quote. What do they mean? Depends on how you spin it?

We need something to stick on the marketing/website that will A) Encourage/peak interest in people to see the show, and B) express ‘Quality’ to punters

Celebrity culture - A good review can turn a performer/project/company into a celebrity. Is that what we want? Is that success?

What makes a good review? Honesty, constructive comments, doesn't sum up a show. Gives a re-useable quote for an artist.

A bad review is to hand out incompetence.

Gill Kirk: ”I'm a reviewer not a critic.“
What's the difference between a reviewer and a critic?
”A critic is someone who can shut down a show“ - Bob Harvard Not regionally - Ali Roberston

The 5* review is the kiss of death for an artist. Andy Burden

It raises unattainable exceptions so that after reading it, the punters expect perfection, which cannot be duplicated or repeated.

Artists can be hung up on reviews - Ali Roberston

What do you do when (not if, as we all at some point will) you make crap? What is crap?
Crap is:
”Badly acted, badly crafted, sloppy“ Ian McGlynn

”Crap is not static“ Matilda

Who are we making work for? Are we making ‘safe’ work to get a good review? Is this art?

”An audience response is just as important as a good review“ Ali Roberston

How does social media affect a the critical assessment of a piece? For Every 35,000 tweets 1 Ticket is sold.
For one ****/* review in the Guardian, you can get a sold out show

Ali Roberston - Disagree with above. In my experience a good/average review doesn't make or break a show. Sales are constant.

If we see a bad film we shrug it off, if a team performs badly on the pitch, we're pissed off, but accepting.So, why is there acceptable ‘blame’ (Punter: ”I want my money back!“) for a bad theatre show?
Ticket prices? Performers accessible? Mistakes visible?

In the theatre we have direct contact with the audience, we don't have this in film/tv/ and to a lesser extent in sport.

”Best nights at the theatre is seeing rubbish“ - Andy Burden

Ali Roberston told an anecdote from somewhere(missed where) that said: ”People like it shitty"


critics, reviews, criticism, performance, Theatre, theatre, Performance, culture, Crap, Success, Culture, Guardian, Celebrity, Lyn Gardner, Venue, Value, Reviews, Failure, Craft, Programming, programming, Professional Development

Comments: 1

Annette Chown, 8 July 2012

Here's my part of the report: As you can see, I've had to post the diagrams on my blog and link to them.