From the ed­i­tor

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Contents - Deb­o­rah Jones

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.

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