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Theatre's Great Awakening & Equity Guidance for Critics

On Criticism & Critics

Equity , Writing About Theatre , May 6, 2021
On Criticism & Critics by Equity The thaw in the great freeze is underway, with a throng of theatres announcing their re-openings. A compendium made of locations includes Bath, Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Canterbury, Chichester, Hornchurch, Leicester, London, Malvern, Scarborough, Windsor.

Theatr Clwyd breaks the ice on 10th June, Seiriol Davies returning with the joyous-sweet “How to Win Against History.” Alan Harris' “For The Grace Of You Go I” follows with a cast of Remy Beasley, Rhodri Meilir and Darren Jeffries.

Cardiff's theatre companies do not appear on the list.

In the Days of Dark theatre writers in London, with little to write about, turned to writing itself. The Stage newspaper in April featured an important special on the deficiencies in theatre criticism.

Equity wrote its own statement.

“All theatre critics have a responsibility to talk about race and race-related issues with care, sensitivity and thought. All critics should guard against unconscious bias, and instead consciously consider the relevance of race, ethnicity or skin colour in their criticism.

“Equity makes the following recommendations in order to ensure the work of theatre critics is of the highest quality, and to help support the growth of an ethnically and culturally diverse body of critics. The guidelines recognise the intrinsic value of theatre criticism across the creative and cultural industries, aligned with the prevailing importance of treating theatre workers with dignity and equal respect.

“In general, theatre critics should:

Be free to express themselves openly and honestly without fear or favour.

Write with sensitivity, empathy and understanding.

Acknowledge their cultural power and use it responsibly.

Comment on the acting rather than the actor unless there is a newsworthy reason to do so.

Remember that all production elements are creative choices made by someone on the production team. A negative critique may well be taken personally, so ensure it is cogently evidenced to ensure it is understood as balanced, fair and designed to be productive.

“When writing about race, ethnicity or skin colour theatre critics should:

Approach unfamiliar themes, contexts and stories with curiosity and openness, and as an opportunity to learn.

Be willing to research further the cultural and historical aspects of a production to avoid misunderstanding.

Remember that everyone is equal and should not be treated as strange or ‘othered’.

Avoid referring to immutable characteristics such as age, race, gender and appearance unless such characteristics directly affect the production’s meaning.

Where relevant and necessary, distinguish clearly between different racial and ethnic groups in a production.

Define people as they would define themselves.

Use current and inclusive language.

On matters of objectivity, theatre critics should:

“Keep in mind that true objectivity does not exist so their reviews will always be influenced by their own lived experience. Consider their own potential for bias and/or relative privilege when evaluating a production. Consciously consider how and whether this may impact their judgement.

Consider whether, based on ethnicity and/or relative privilege, they are best positioned to tell and/or interpret a story.

“When making amends, theatre critics should:

Accept that, despite all good intentions, they may still get it wrong because this is a sensitive and personal issue to those who frequently experience racism.

Apologise for getting it wrong and be willing to learn from their experiences.

Publish corrections in a timely way.

To play a more active role in combating racism in theatre criticism, critics could:

Volunteer to mentor a person of colour who is interested in writing theatre criticism.

Offer plus-ones to people of colour.

Provide a publishing platform for critics of colour.

Introduce critics of colour to commissioning editors.

Promote initiatives seeking to diversify theatre criticism. For example, invite critics who blog into your circle/community.”

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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