There’s been a bit of a mini-furor in theatre-land this week when a new online news outlet, the Global Mail, chose to present this article as their inaugural Arts and Culture feature. It is only a mini-furor and one that I’m sure won’t linger (I hope), so I’ll just give a brief account from my perspective.
The gist of the GM’s story, as per the sub-header is, “Bloggers are rising up to tell Sydney theatre lovers what they really think of the latest plays, with no punches pulled.”
1. The story actually focuses on just one blogger, a “sassy” drama teacher – Jane Simmons – who writes a theatre review blog called Shit on Your Play. There are a few comments from another online reviewer, but his offerings certainly don’t indicate any sense of ‘revolution’, just the idea that theatregoers like to talk about their experiences afterwards. Really? (Does anyone hear a dripping noise?).
With that in mind, I’ll just start by rejigging the GM’s angle a tad: “A Sydney theatre blogger rises up to tell Sydney theatre lovers what she really thinks of the latest plays, with no punches pulled.”
2. Shit On Your Play tends to hate on stuff (like, der). Including good stuff. I would never pretend to be anything but a layperson in regards to theatre reviewing (I like it or I don’t, and then if someone else hates what I like and provides a good argument as to why they hate it, then I hate it too). But, from my perspective, SOYP is just counter-productive snipeyness that takes the heart and soul out of what theatre makers do.
So, let’s say: “A snipey Sydney Theatre Blogger swoops to tell Sydney theatre lovers what she really thinks of the latest plays, with no punches pulled.”
3. There is a gaggle (A cast? A rack? A murder?) of intelligent, interesting and thought-provoking reviewers – both on and offline – in the contemporary Australian theatre industry who have been pulling their own punches for many years. Online reviewing isn’t new, nor nasty reviewing (remember the old SMH Metro writer who’d groan and sigh if he hated what he was watching?). And neither are newsworthy. The difference with these guys is that most genuinely cherish and support the industry that employs them.
4. Despite offering a unique view, which of course it does and is entitled to do, and in-depth overview of each play, as is possible online, SOYP doesn’t speak to an audience outside the industry. Anyone who doesn’t frequent the theatre often, but is looking for a new and fascinating experience, will get lost in the historical references and dropped names (included for credibility, obviously), and will perhaps even get bored and stop reading. I did.
OK, so let’s say: “A new online news source attempts to promote the ‘electricity’ of online media by rolling out a new-to-the-game, snipey Sydney theatre blogger who swoops to tell the Sydney theatre INDUSTRY what she really thinks.”
That’s kind of it really.