Is blogging changing theatre criticism? Undoubtedly, yes. The newspaper review
is now part of a broader debate about what is happening in the world of
theatre. The professional critic is no longer regarded, if she or he
ever was, as a lone, ivory-tower expert. We are all now exposed to the
democratic hurly-burly of blogs, where our opinions can be countered,
corrected, reviled or even, on rare occasions, enthusiastically
Well, hurrah. Break out the booze, chaps. Another journalist has fallen to the blog borg.
Oh, hang on, what’s this?
But, precisely because we live in age of relentless PR, the
professional critic’s voice becomes ever more vital. I see it as part
of one’s job to shut one’s ears to the relentless din and simply judge
a show on its merits.
OK, cancel the party. He’s not quite there yet. He still holds to that intangible aura of superiority. We, the professional critics, are superior to you, the blogging hoi polloi, because we are immune to the wiles of the PR types. Our discernment is superior, our insight deeper.
It’s the classic hack’s delusion. We know more, and our opinions are more important, because we are journalists. We have control of the channels of information, so we must be better. The Reduced Michael Billington nails it:
Also, critics are uniquely equiped to see through all of the PR and marketing that surrounds plays. They do this by going to theatres on special nights set aside for them, where they are met by the play’s publicist, handed a handy press pack put together by the marketing department and given free drinks at the interval which come from the play’s marketing budget. How could an ordinary member of the public possibly see through the marketing, which, from the theatre’s point of view, I am a part of?
*With apologies to Private Eye