Laura Kressly, 10 January 2016

What are we going to do about Theatre/Arts criticism: Money, Models & Ethics

(Callum, Greg, Emmanuel, Katherine, and a few others who came and went)

Laura introduced herself as a critic, Drama teacher, producer and former actor.

The issue of reviewing friends and colleagues- it’s about what the critic and

friends/colleagues are comfortable with.

It was agreed that it’s bad practice to review shows at a venue where you work.

Objectivity is key, Laura asks or informs those she knows when reviewing shows

where she knows someone involved.

Some critics don’t believe in socialising with theatre makers, though younger critics

don’t see this as a problem. This led onto:

Attitudes across generations within criticism. Older v. Younger.

Idea: Objectivity is false. Your reaction is immediate, transcending friendship. Conflict

of interest happens later.

Honesty and authority: bloggers still perceived to have less authority than critics

writing for established publications, though this is changing. Readers/theatre makers

are increasing their trust in bloggers.

Money: people resent paying for content online, so publications are losing money


The trajectory of the Internet is leading to privatisation: The Stage paywall, The Times,

cited as examples.

A couple of UK bloggers have launched patreon accounts – crowdfunding

Will all publications eventually have paywalls, even blogs?

People follow particular writers.

Equity Lo/No Pay: Emmanuel raised concern with papers (I.e. Guardian) reviewing

fringe shows where no one is paid. He says that ideally, these productions will get no

exposure so audiences are encouraged to go to productions where people are paid.

- What about unpaid bloggers reviewing these shows?

- How do press know if people are paid properly or not? Press releases don’t say.

- Venue hire and landlord rents are the problem, but some fringe venues do pay

properly: The Hope and The King’s Head, for example

Current model does not facilitate payment.

Ethics of reviewing differ in Scotland because everyone knows everyone else. Is this

positive or negative? Is it like this elsewhere?

Will companies start paying for reviews? Will the Bitter Lemons model in LA catch on

here? Greg stated he would be happy to pay for reviews from specific reviewers he

trusts. Some others expressed reservations and this model leaves room for a loss of

objectivity. A negative review would mean that company/person will not hire that critic


Artists dialogue with critics: embedded criticism perceived as positive, a few

participants who are theatre makers said they would like to incorporate criticism in the

rehearsal and development process. Critics can inform this process from an objective


Critics would be expected to be paid for this, as it requires large time commitment.

Issue with paywalls: companies then have to pay to access their reviews

Interpretation of themes/issues in performance: race, gender, class. Do critics who

don’t fall into the demographics understand the nuance? Should critics only review

work that ‘fits’ them and their background? What about negative reviews that cross

these boundaries?

What are the expectations of critics? What is the perceived value of their writing?

Varies from individual to individual.

What is the difference between Lifestyle bloggers/bloggers who can make lots of

money from their writing? They are promoting/evaluating a product, which is

fundamentally the same as what arts critics do.


Criticism, critics, Equity, reviews, criticism, Pay, embedded criticism, Critics, equity,

CRITICISM, Reviews, pay

Comments: 3

Wendy Thomson, 12 January 2016

Very interesting discussion, wish I'd been there!

Laura Kressly, 20 January 2016

Thanks Wendy, glad to make your session the following day!

Laura Kressly, 20 January 2016

I'm pretty sure there are bits of the session that didn't make it in because I didn't write them down, apologies!