5 Star, 1 Star, and Beyond

I have a fantasy. A website related fantasy.

Recently I discovered that some producing theatre companies’ literary managers – the people who find the playwrights and plays for bigger-sized theatre companies – now find themselves having to justify their work on the basis of, say, how many four-star reviews the productions earn. That’s a KPI.

And I’m not kidding.

I have a love-hate relationship with theatre reviews. I love the ones that praise my work, and I hate the ones that don’t.

Thing is, that’s not helpful for writing, is it? Donna Hoke writes beautifully about surviving bad reviews (or good reviews, even).

Still, I felt a bit run out of town by one reviewer in Melbourne before I left for London about a decade ago, and I’m still a bit scared and scarred by the experience.

And I’m not blaming anybody. Well. I am a little. But I blame more the star-rating system, which, like most ways of evaluating art in a capitalist society, diminishes our consciousness of the breadth of our experience, facilitating reviews that can reduce reviewers’ voices to yelps.

What are we? Bipeds that grunt in the face of experience?

“Ha.” “Nah.” “Yeah.” “Boom.” “This.” Tap five times with your leg for good play. Or four, depending on the KPI.

So my fantasy is to start a theatre reviewing blog that awarded five stars and one star to every production attended, with the appropriate voice below each rating, written by the same person. 

It’s possible to award both one- and five-star ratings to the same show. I should know. I’ve had that experience with Falling Petals and The Armour. What the difference reveals is not so much inconsistency in the theatrical “product” as differing criteria and values and, shall we be so bold as to use the word, ideologies of life and art.

That’s why I fantasise over creating the 5 Star 1 Star site. It would be the chance to put thise differences side by side – and paradoxically only then would the “consumer” get a sense of the choice.

What’s your theatre website fantasy?