The Magic Of Live Theatre…Why Five Stars Isn’t Always Everything

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The ultimate dream for every director…the magical five stars. Or is that really the dream?

Perhaps for too long, some people have defined the success of a production by the number of stars it has. Not only that but some people writing those reviews and giving out those stars get under the impression that only their voice matters.

Today, I’m writing to challenge that perception and that’s because of a sort of epiphany moment I had this weekend

This Saturday I went to see Pretty Woman, the latest film to musical adaptation from Broadway that’s hitting the West End. The production has some great moments and a incredibly talented cast. I enjoyed it, but at the same time, if I rated it out of five, for me, it wouldn’t have achieved top marks.

That doesn’t mean others feel the same way. When I looked around, as I often do at the curtain call, I didn’t just see people applauding for applauding’s sake, I saw pure delight and energy from people all around giving a production the reward they felt it deserves.

It was a super sweet moment to see that level of joy and passion from an audience. It almost teared me up seeing just how much a piece of theatre can mean to people. Theatre is there to entertain and that’s exactly what it did. We as a community should support and not oppose or ridicule that.

Sure, the role of critics and reviewers is to analyse the qualities of a production, to share what’s good about a production, while airing views about what didn’t work and explaining why. This helps an industry to grow and improve. It also helps audiences decide if a production will be for them.

Writing a review doesn’t give a writer a blank page to belittle audiences who enjoy a production or worse, demotivate and try and humiliate a team who have worked their socks off to create a piece of theatre they will treasure. To maintain respect from audiences and the industry, it’s important to ensure that reviews are fair and don’t get too personal.

It would be wrong for any critic, reviewer, influencer, blogger, performer to say that a production can’t be enjoyed by others just because they didn’t feel it had artistic merit or because they didn’t enjoy it.

There are times when both audience and critics agree, like with the 2016 Tour of Ghost when audiences and critics alike shared their frustrations with the lead casting choices. However, there are times when what the critics want and what the audience want clashes. Les Miserables when it launched at the RSC and We Will Rock You’s launch in the west end are just two examples.

I’m not calling for critics and reviewers to stop analysing a production or pointing out where things aren’t successful. I won’t refrain from doing that either. However, when writing reviews, publishing videos or speaking to others, it should be remembered that sometimes not everyone will share your view.

Above everything, no matter how analytical a review is, it’s a point of view and not everyone will feel the same way. There’s a chance that a review could put someone off a production they could adore and it would be a deep shame for that to happen.

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