Julie Bergevin, 25 January 2015

Press nights are weird. A potentially nervous cast performs to a group of critics and,

generally, a well meaning non-paying audience who are half-watching the critics and

half-trying to support their mates in the show. The press then rush home and rush out

a review for the next day. In most cases, the press night has itself been rushed into

being by producers/venues who need the reviews to sell tickets…

And it lots of ways this works. Get a good set of reviews and you’re on your way. With

ticket prices as high as they are, especially on the fringe, audiences need validation

before they spend their buck. Get it right and your show gets its champions nice and

early in the run, the show reaches new audiences, everybody’s happy. You get to

claim the conversation for the day and the world will know what you’re doing.

But what if it all goes wrong. What if your press night is a disaster? Or the show isn’t

ready? Of course, if the audience are paying the show should be ready, but couldn’t

we all be doing more previews. Three and then you open isn’t enough but the

pressures of opening and the need to recoup are such that we press earlier and


And what of the experience for the audience. Is an audience affected by the press

being there. Often, yes. Is a buzz generated? Sometimes. Whatever it is, it’s not a

typical performance. And isn’t that what we’d like to see reviewed? The typical. That’s

what the audience gets to see.

And what’s it like for the critics? It’s exhausting to go from press night to press night,

rushing home to write that review for the next morning edition. 300 words. By

tomorrow. 300 words? That’s not enough. Not to engage with the subject matter AND

move the argument on. It’s no surprise that the blogs seem to be better written, more

complex reviews. Shame they don’t get paid very much. Actually, the pay in reviewing

is shocking. £60 per show for the major websites. A pittance. A pity.

And who’s reviewing and do their reviews matter? The consensus… The nationals

matter less. I’m not so sure. Twitter, blogs, word of mouth have all grown but is there

just too much and do we really truly trust what we read. The nationals still hold power.

Selling power. It would useful to know sells what, and what click through rates are.

Reviews still matter. Criticism still matters. But do we need them all on the same day?

It’s not how they do it in NYC. Apparently. There, it’s more spread out. Apparently.

How about a Trip Advisor website for theatre going experiences?

How about anonymous reviews like restaurant reviews?

How about longer previews?

How about inviting the press in to any show, but making them aware of what stage the

show is at?

How about paying reviewers more?

Ultimately it’s for the makers and the producers and venues to work it out. You want to

operate without a press night. Very good, sir.

That’s it for now.

(Daniel Goldman)


Trip Advisor, Reviewers, Press nights, critics, Audience, press, Pay, audience, Critics,

Press, pay