From the editor
THERE are a couple of things you can practically bet on people saying when referring to a review one has written. The first — and remember, this is after they’ve read what you’ve had to say — is to ask: ‘‘What did you think?’’ Oh dear. Was it that obscure? The other is this: ‘‘Gee you were kind.’’ I think the first comment, slightly vexing though it is to hear, is just a cackhanded way of starting a discussion about a show. The second is, I think, shorthand for: ‘‘I didn’t much like what I saw, and what you wrote didn’t reflect that. You found things interesting, I didn’t, ipso facto you were being kind.’’ There’s been a fair bit of insider chatter in the past few weeks about theatre criticism, spurred by a piece on a new online news site. It was a profile of a flame-throwing theatre blogger, and the flames weren’t directed only at the theatre profession. Mainstream critics got a bit of a belting too, for being too tame, and ready to praise any old dross in order ‘‘to promote and protect’’ the local industry. The piece was very possibly designed to be inflammatory; it certainly proved to be that, although the attention it got backfired rather. The subject of the story appeared in a very poor light — the examples of criticism offered were along the lines of ‘‘I don’t like it because it’s crap’’ — and the writer appeared naively in thrall to the notion that vulgar invective is more truthful than searching, intelligent, deeply engaged and illuminating discussion. Most of us don’t expect everyone to agree with what we write about a performance. All of us, critics and patrons, bring so many different things to the auditorium. If one of those things is seen as kindness, so be it.