Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

brand new idea

So I had this idea today, when I saw that a review for The Emancipation of Arnie was published on the 24 April, five days before the show FINISHES. And the worst part was that it was a really good review. So it has little or no value this late into the run. I mean, that’s as useful as an all seam attack against the Australians.

How about a special press night preview, a night before the show officially opens, with a mandate from the daily press to send someone, who comes, and then publishes their review the day after the show OPENS? That gives them ONE WHOLE DAY AND TWO NIGHTS to write the review. At the very worst, they could attend opening night and go home and write the review after the party. The excuse of it being too late for print no longer stands. The reviews can be posted on the web in four seconds flat.

Our theatre runs, particularly at small, independent theatres, are often very very short (like the brilliant Kissed By Brel), so by the time a review comes out the show is over or at least almost over. In a few other parts of the world a show is made or destroyed by the reviews that come out the day after opening. This means that the reviews have high importance and meaning, Cape Town critics. That’s the whole POINT of a review, ne?

So, here’s my challenge to all Cape Town reviewers and bloggers who crit and crits who blog and anyone who writes theatre pieces and listings and stuff. Let’s get those reviews and opinions out at the latest two days after a show opens. Let’s give theatre a chance. Let’s give our jobs meaning. Yee ha.

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4 Comments

  1. The Saint

    This is going to be a long comment but I feel quite strongly about this and think we should do something about it.
    In December 2005, Brent Meersman ended a piece he wrote on papering houses with these words ~

    “Publishing houses and media groups should of course pay for their critics’ tickets, in the same way that award sponsors should pay for their judges to go to the shows, in the same way that newspapers and magazines supposedly pay for the meals in the restaurants they review. Don’t hold your breath though! And if you are fortunate to get a complimentary seat – spread the word or buy some merchandise! You have created an obligation to the performers”

    OK not 100% in point in the context of this discussion but I was moved [on New Year’s day nogal] to comment inter alia [if you want the full comment see the Real Review – Dec 2005] thus ~

    “The Saint
    Sunday 1 January 2006 11:16 AM
    Writing from the point of view of a theatre owner/operator, there are a number of issues here worth commenting on as follows ~
    1. in most instances the first 2 weeks of any new show are pure hell for theatre owners and performers as everyone waits to see how the show will take off – Cape Town does not rush to the theatre it seems unless it is the “Chicagos” of the world or stand up comedy;
    2. …….
    3. ………
    4. I also believe that crits take far too long to see the light of day in newspapers. One is often told about lack of space and an over supply of shows to be critted but I don’t buy that. What ever happened to that scene beloved of Hollywood where the leading lady waits anxiously for the morning newspapers with comment of her performance the night before??? Crits should appear within 2 days of the critics attendance at the most. Also some critics should leave their soap boxes to more general articles on the state of theatre etc and concentrate on critting a show not using it to propogate their views on some or other issue of general relevance.
    So I agree that papering houses is probably not a good idea, either freebies or with specials, but in our world anyway there is some method to our madness.”

    Brent responded ~

    “Thanks for the comments. I want to highlight your point 4 – spot on – we really need to create a ‘hype’ around the theatre, like the tension of the next morning crit, interesting pieces on actors and writers. I think our dailies should get their act together. – Brent”

    So you are not alone but is the time not ripe for action – “to the streets, to the streets !!!”. Lets do a quick analysis of the current situation in CT `
    1. The Argus’s Tonight seems to include theatre [as opposed to TV and film] about once a week – in recent times they have stopped using experienced reviewers too. So any review in the Argus takes at least 5 days to appear;
    2. The Cape Times is better but they are, it seems, short of people who review and do not always or are not always able to come to the theatre in the first week [we have press evenings on the first Thurs or Fri of a run] and then the review comes out 4 to 7 days after the crtici has been to the theatre;
    3. Die Burger publishes reviews on Fridays only as far as I can discern so same story on how long it takes to get a review published;
    4. The Sunday Times – hysterical laughter stage centre;
    5. The Sunday Independent – Robert Greig never comes to CT or if he does, he doesn’t deign to come to the Far South;
    6. Die Rapport can be difficult to contact and is a Sunday newspaper so 7 to 10 days before the review;
    7. Our local community papers come out on Tuesday and Thursday and are actually better in this regard than the others in that they try hard to get a review into the issue following the day on which they come to the theatre;

    And so on – oh by the way there is a new paper called “The Next 48 Hours” that comes out on a Thursday and Friday [depending on where you live] – it is a free sheet and concentrates on entertainment only and this will help if we support it.

    But I think we should do more than this and this is what we should do – we = you, Megan, and me ~
    [a] we should start a website/blog dedicated to reviewing theatre productions in and around the Cape;
    [b] we should look to involve all theatre from the Baxter & the Artscape to Die Boer, Die Hoenderhok and KBT;
    [c] we should commission reviewers [Brent for example could sign them off as OK and experienced etc] to go to productions and review them – editorial independence gteed – and pay them to do so BUT they must post the review within 36 hours of seeing the show;
    [e] We will all have to commit to the publication of reviews of shows in which we are involved whether good or bad;
    [f] initially we would all have to fund this but we can try and sell ads on the site to put funds in the pot or look for sponsorship or whatever;
    [g] we will all ned to publicise this and get people to use it as a reference point for what’s good and what’s bad;

    Maybe you can improve on this or add to it but what say you ????

  2. Great idea! Could it work with the Fleur du Cap site? The infrastucture is sort of there already.

    Just to clarify Megan, the problem I have is that the M&G Friday section deadline for the Pick of the Week is Monday noon. That means, from Tuesday onwards any show I see will only appear the following week Friday! I saw Rosencrantz and Guildenstern on opening night (the night my pages were actually at the printers by the way), so the soonest the crit could come out: 10 days later! I can’t use my blog to undercut my newspaper, so I put up a notice saying trust me “go and see, crit to follow”. By the way, here’s a tip, as I post my M&G pieces as future blogs you can actually pick them up immediately via the archive before they appear on the blog or in print.

  3. megan

    wow! Lots to think about. Simon, thanks for your amazing feedback. Big Friendly has had a great idea which bears thinking about before it is revealed.

    Brent, I was really aiming this at the dailies; I know how different it is for weeklies, and I know your space restrictions etc.

  4. Zane Henry

    I concur.

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