Recently, I was notified of an issue involving a community theatre and a critic reviewing their shows. In a review of their latest production, this critic listed and commented on every performer in the cast except for one. Normally an omission like this might be just a simple editing mistake. However, according to multiple people involved, this critic and actor had a personal falling out over the past year.
When the critic was rightfully called out for this intentional omission, they corrected the review and blasted the actor’s performance.
Given that I know of this critic’s past issues with specific performers and theatres, I would typically just call this the actions of a petulant child masquerading as a local theatre critic. However, it’s a stark reminder that some critics have certain vendettas and will use their reviews to carry them out.
This isn’t the first time I’ve heard a critic act this way. I’ve been sent reports of a critic who give negative reviews to theatres that don’t give them the “perks” that other theatres do. One theatre stopped giving free drink tickets to critics and apparently one of them was so sour about it, they haven’t published a positive review since. Another critic is so mad that their press tickets had been revoked from a theatre, that they now blast that theatre in other reviews. I’ve heard that a local critic was called out by misgendering a trans performer and rather than apologize and correct it, have continued to misgender the performer in subsequent productions.
So yes, it’s no secret that critics can play out their grievances and exact revenge in their reviews. Which honestly sucks because print and the internet can last forever and dictate the narrative on a performer’s career. No one knows that more than I do.
And I’ll be honest, I’m not an angel. I can name at least three theatres that saying I have a negative relationship with, would be putting it lightly. But we have the understanding that they don’t invite my publication to review their productions and I won’t review them. I do the same with performers who I have had run-ins with in the past, I simply don’t review their work. But not every critic operates this way and it’s a shame.
Now I should mention that the majority of critics I’ve come to know would never do this. Most of them will always walk into a show with an objective mind and whatever issues they might have with those involved in the production, they leave all of that at the door.
So what can theatres do to combat this? Well, the most logical move would be to revoke the critic’s press tickets and report the issue to the editors of their publication. That’s a bit harder when the critic writes on a blog, that irony is not lost on me, but at the very least you can take away that critic’s privileges to your productions. The important thing to know is that as a theatre or performer, you are not powerless against a critic.
Nothing should be held over your head for a positive review. That’s not how this is supposed to work.