Saturday, September 10, 2011

Some thoughts on reviewing

As all these reviews I've been posting probably attest, I did a bit of reviewing at the Edinburgh Fringe this summer and, being the sort to over-think, I've been pondering the whole process on and off ever since. I wasn't the only one to do so; ace magician and comic Chris Cox wrote a great piece from the performer's point of view about the impact of misinformed and spoilery reviewing, and I read a fair few Twitter conversations about badly-written or inconsistent reviews over the course of the month - as well as links to positive reviews of course, and some nice praise for really good ones.

Chris ends his piece "all any of us ask is that [reviews] are fair", but if anything he's being over-generous to reviewers there. I know that I want the reviews I read to also provide a bit of insight, to point things out that I would have missed, to provide a sense of the overall performance without giving away too many specifics, and to be an entertaining read. That's what great reviews do, and the best ones - written with real care by people who  know their stuff and love the field they're writing about -are a joy. My reviews certainly don't do all of this all the time, but am I increasingly conscious that to have any right to pass comment on others, what I write needs to have merit in itself - you can't criticise an act for being unoriginal if you employ a stream of clichés to do so. Hopefully I'm getting there.

One lovely thing to come out of my general musing, though, is that I really bloody love writing about comedy. I absolutely refute the idea that analysing comedy destroys it (the old 'and the frog dies' analogy) - I love looking at comedy from a 'critical analysis' point of view; trying to work why something is funny, why it works. Geek alert, I know, but I reckon a lot of comics are like that too, actually - comedians and critics certainly aren't the polar opposites they're often made out to be, in any case. There's definitely a similarity in mindset. We both think that what we have to say is interesting enough to be put in front of an audience - and both have the self-awareness to sometimes think that that's kinda ridiculous.

Now, if this were a review, I would be looking for a neat and satisfactory way to conclude... good job this was only billed as 'some thoughts', eh?


Dean said...

I give this post three stars. Some interesting bits.

The folks said...

A thought provoking post Anna,
In these days of a myriad comedy venues and comedians,the role of the reviewer/critic is inreasingly important .Intelligent insight,without careless spoilery ,are vital in helping punters decide where to spend their money.Knowledge ,care and enthusiasm expressed with lively readability,all make a review which can be enjoyed for its own qualities.
Stick to your own guidelines and you won't go far wrong!