Theatre in Wales

Commentary and extended critical writing on theatre, dance and performance in Wales

Five Good Quotations on Critical Writing

Coveney, Tynan, Kael, Fenton on Criticism


“The most useful award a critic can give is a colourful, well-argued and enthusiastic notice.”

Michael Coveney in “The Aisle is Full of Noises”


“the point of dramatic criticism., which is to find the virtues of a performance and make them public.”

James Fenton in “You Were Marvellous”


“The role of the critic is help people see what is in the work, what is in it that shouldn’t be, what is not in that could be. He is a good critic if he helps people understand more about the work than they could see themselves; he is a great critic, if by his understanding and feeling for the work, by his passion, he can excite people so that want to experience more of the art that is there, waiting to be seized…The art of the critic is to transmit his knowledge of and enthusiasm for art to others.”

Pauline Kael in “I Lost it at the Movies”


“Varied and lively criticism isn’t necessarily good for individual productions or artists, but it is good for the genre as a whole. If there is no intellectual, aesthetic political, spiritual passionate argument about what gets made, then the only arbiters of value are the box office and the phone-in. Bad culture drives out good unless there is someone there to stop it.”

A A Gill in the Sunday Times

Writing Not Just Opinion

“Theatre critics, as Walkely said, “ are consumers of one art, the art of drama, and producers of another art, the art of criticism.” What counts is not their opinion, but the art with which it is expressed. They differ from the novelist only in that they take as their subject-matter life rehearsed instead of life unrehearsed. The subtlest and best-informed of men will still be be a bad critic if his style is bad. It is irrelevant if his opinion is “right” or “wrong.” I learn far more from GBS when he is wrong than from Clement Scott when he is right. The true critic cares little for here and now. The last thing he bothers about is the man who will read him first. His real rendezvous is with posterity. His review is a letter addressed to the future-to people thirty years hence who may wonder exactly what it felt like to be in a certain playhouse on a certain distant night. The critic is their eye-witness; and he has done his job, if he evokes, precisely, and with all the prejudice clearly charted, the state of his mind after the performance has impinged upon it.”

Kenneth Tynan in “Curtains”

author:Adam Somerset

original source:
31 August 2013


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