So I was scrolling through Facethingy for something interesting this morning, and lo and behold, I was successful. That doesn’t happen often!
I came across a link to a new blog about theatre in Canberra. Again, anonymous, and seemingly a little critical of Canberra’s slightly longer-standing anonymous critic, Max, who’s had a six-month head start and has ruffled a few feathers. This blogger, who goes by the title That Guy Who Watches Canberra Theatre is rather more modest and wants to increase conversation about theatre in Canberra, which I appreciate rather more than Max‘s claim that whatever s/he thinks is Gospel. Well, I congratulate That Guy on that, and wish him all the best. I also look forward to offering the odd pingback where we happen to post about the same show.
My one little hesitation is that I’m not fond of the anonymous critic idea generally. It has some merit, since it allows the critic to be completely candid about people s/he might otherwise just pay lip service to, but it also encourages that most useless form of criticism, the attack. Max has been known to tear artists down under the rather bemusing motto of being “objective, honest and accurate” (objectivity is of course impossible in a critic, who by definition must take a position; and an accuracy of opinion is hardly something to distinguish any individual critic from any other (for all anyone knows every critic’s expression of his/her opinion has always been accurate); though I value the honesty). Max is rarely as aggressive as the worst of the critics at the Crimes (a significant achievement!). So while I can understand why a critic might want to remain anonymous, and don’t really object, I just don’t see enough value in anonymity. If opinions are personal, they should be owned by a person and not paraded about as gospel.
I’m aware I’m sitting in a glass house here; I haven’t always focused on what I like, which was my intention for this blog when I started it four years ago. But nonetheless, I stand behind my opinions and own them. My real name is all over this blog and everything that links to it, and anyone can click through or search for my Facebook or Twitter accounts to hurl abuse right back at me. There are photos of my face so that if you don’t know me and you object to something I write you can approach me the next time you see me in a theatre foyer and punch it. Even my phone number is here, freely available for you! Anyone can post a dissenting point of view in response to my posts, and know who they’re having a conversation with. When I review for Australian Stage, I need to be more forthcoming, and I don’t get the privilege of simply not writing about shows I really don’t like. On my blog, though, I can just speak my mind about what I do like and save my vitriol for Andrew Lloyd Webber, who truly deserves it for his criminal aversion to character and plot.
At times, I’ve found myself and people I’ve worked with desperately discouraged by the Crimes’ most viscous and disreputable reviewers, and though their reviews aren’t anonymous, I fear the same level of vitriol could develop as a result of Max and That Guy‘s anonymity. It doesn’t really help, and this kind of critic potentially leads great artists to quit and exit the field based on one irrelevant person’s opinion before they’ve created their greatest work or found what they’re really good at. I prefer the philosophy of pointing out what I value and hoping the artist does more of that. I certainly hope that no artist I’ve been critical of sees my opinion as being more important than anyone else’s.
The two posts currently up on That Guy‘s blog are reasonably balanced and positive, so I guess time will tell whether the anonymity will be a blessing or a curse. I just hope it doesn’t become a haven for discouraging the wonderful artists who make up Canberra’s theatre community. Overall, it’s just great to have another blog about Canberra theatre around, and I’m looking forward to a greater diversity of opinions being expressed (especially because That Guy‘s no great fan of Andrew Lloyd Webber). Have a look at his review of Free Rain’s Cats here.
- My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog
- Shit Self-Righteous Bloggers Say
- A Question of Transparency or Good Writing
- Shit on Your Play; A Year Dissected by Me
- 5 Reasons to Blog Anonymously (and 5 Reasons Not To)
- Think You Can Hide, Anonymous Blogger?
Monday, 23 July 2012 at 8:05 am
I actually AM a reasonable fan of some of Lloyd Webber’s work, I just don’t like “Cats” a lot. And the reasons for it are as much TS Eliot’s verse, which is pretty close to doggrel, as it is Lloyd-Webber’s musical settings (which are at least catchy). His main problem is that he hasn’t had a good lyricist since splitting with Tim Rice (and as a man with his power and position, he’s perfectly able to, the fact that he chooses to work with inferior collaborators says a lot about him). I do think the man can write a tune (although he can also recycle a tune to death).
I’m not entirely proud of my “Cats” review, a lot of the stuff I was trying to write there was “why is this so popular” and I’ve realised since that one of the reasons why it worked professionally may be that the professional productions have a reasonable amount of spectacle (flying tyre, show-offy magic tricks, specially-built garbage on the set to be 1.75 size real life) for the audience to goggle at. In the absence of spectacle, you’re left with the simple virtues of plot and character, and … well, Cats doesn’t have a lot of that. So in an amateur production, you’re left with a sense of “is that all there is” – lots of impressive talent throwing itself at very little. I have a dreadful fear of what Free Rain’s “Phantom Of the Opera”, also a spectacle-fest, will be like – I can’t imagine they have the resources for multiple-pop-up-lit-candelabra, for instance.
I hope not to be attacking, and I hope to be engaging in the comments threads a couple of times when interesting conversations arise. Part of criticism should be that it’s the beginning of of a conversation, not the end of it. And I like a bit of chat back and forth…
Tuesday, 24 July 2012 at 7:50 am
Actually, I overstate my detestation of Webber, and Phantom is the one musical of his that I actually have time for. Really, that’s just about it having a plot and some decent characters, which to me are central to theatre. If it’s all about spectacle, put it in a tent with the other circus acts or send it to the Olympics!
Let’s hope for the best from Free Rain, eh?
Saturday, 28 July 2012 at 5:37 am
Oh, incidentally, you should also consider adding “http://canberradilettante.blogspot.com.au/” to your blogroll. Another nicely incisive and non-carping theatre brain.
Saturday, 28 July 2012 at 8:58 pm
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Friday, 3 July 2015 at 9:58 pm
You might like to add my blog to your blogroll: Frank McKone Theatre Criticism. I’m one of the old guard at the Canberra Critics’ Circle, but my blog collects my reviews since 1996 (in the process of…)
Wednesday, 15 July 2015 at 10:14 pm
Thanks, Frank! I will do so now. I am sorry it has taken me so long to reply, I have rather too many irons in the fire at present.