From the editor
I AM far from the only critic to observe that readers seem far more engaged with a negative review than a positive one, although I’m not entirely sure why. This was brought home to me forcefully a couple of weeks ago after I reviewed the musical version of An Officer and a Gentleman, a world premiere of a work written by an American creative team but with an Australian cast and director. As some of you may know, I didn’t admire the piece and expressed that opinion forcefully. One of the writers, Douglas Day Stewart — he also wrote the 1982 film — was deeply offended and asked us to publish a response, which we did. Stewart didn’t pull any punches regarding how he felt about me. He played the woman rather than the ball, but that’s showbiz. I dished it out in the way I wanted to, and Stewart hit back in the way he wanted to. Writer and actor James Millar — himself a creator of musical theatre — weighed in with a piece supporting the critic’s right to write, and the thing took off internationally. I doubt any piece I’ve produced has been as widely disseminated as this (you can still read it all online if you wish). But had I written a rave and Stewart written in to congratulate me on my powers of perception, this exchange of views would have gone absolutely nowhere. Interestingly, one commentator suggested The Australian wanted to create a stir by publishing Stewart’s letter: is it that hard to believe someone may simply be saying what they think, with no ulterior motive? But whatever motives were ascribed to me, the fact remains that a strongly negative review was devoured avidly while positive views tend to end up as a brief quote in a company’s advertising. I’d be interested to hear your views on this.