Writers are a needy bunch. Releasing our work into the world begins with vanity, hope or a desire to engage, and having taken the plunge we’re pathetically grateful if people tell us they enjoy it.
It’s nice if ‘people’ means ‘thousands of people prepared to buy our books or tickets to our plays’, but even two or three supporters will do, as long as they rave about our brilliance and are not just saying that because they’re our parents.
Which is why, when a new play of mine opens, I love reading what people think about it on blogs, Twitter and FaceBook.
When a blogger or tweeter writes something positive, I can congratulate myself for successfully connecting with an unbiassed audience member who is clearly articulating the opinions of many other right-thinking people. If they’re critical (yes, it happens) I can comfort myself with the knowledge that the blogger/tweeter is obviously an idiot.
Social media and online publishing are fast becoming the best vehicles for finding what audiences really think of shows. Tweets appear immediately after each performance (sometimes even during interval) and, with only 140 characters to play with, tweeters limit themselves to all the right words: ‘Fantastic show’, ‘made my heart sing’, ‘magical’, ‘beautiful’…
Thank you, thank you! Go to Twitter and search “Book of Everything” for the full list.
Sadly, traditional print media are being squeezed by falling circulation and revenue, so professional theatre reviewers, paid their pittance by the word, are being limited to ever-shrinking numbers of column inches. There’s often barely room to summarise the plot, name a few actors and award stars out of five.
Fortunately there are dedicated souls who, out of love of the theatre and, I presume, a love of writing, spend many hours composing thoughtful posts for their blogs.
Having total control of the sites they can pick the shows they review and write as little or as much as they choose. Some of them choose to write a lot, and write it well.
If you don’t already know them, look at the blogs of Diana Simmonds, James Waites and Kevin Jackson. These are experienced theatre professionals with long standing in the business, whose opinions can be taken seriously and who possibly can express them more colourfully on a blog than they could in mainstream media.
I also much enjoy the work and admire the commitment of the ‘mums and dads’ reviewers who take the trouble to write about their theatre experiences. There are more and more of them, usually paying for their own tickets, sharing their opinions for free, beholden to no-one. Some may have lots of readers, some probably have very few.
If you’re one of those, I wish you much pleasure from your writing. I trawl Google and Twitter to find you, and I’m pathetically grateful for the trouble you take, so please keep up the good work!
Where do you go for reliable opinion about theatre, films and books you may be interested in seeing or reading? Newspapers? Particular websites? Twitter or FaceBook? Or somewhere else?