Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

"I expect well written, informed, considered and honest reviews"

On Criticism & Critics

A Critical Retrospective , 2011-2021: A Decade of Commentary , February 10, 2022
On Criticism & Critics by A Critical  Retrospective When the break in performance began on Boxing Day its length and duration were not known. It lasted five weeks.

Happily tours are in prospect, although not for this month. It is a time of hiatus before a review can appear. It is thus a time for retrospection.

There are some good jokes and quips about critics. Fun and mockery are good and clear the air. But strong directors like critics.

Kate Wasserberg: "Whether they like my show or not, to feel a critic has truly “seen” my work is very valuable to me."

Rachel O'Riordan: "Critics are important. What we expect of them is to be able to judge each piece of work on merit, in context and without bias...The really important thing to remember is that critics are writing for audiences; so they are an interpreter of the work they see for them- not for you. As a director, it can be easy to forget that."

Erica Eirian: ““I expect critics to come to our work with open minds and a discerning eye and to respond to our work with constructive, insightful judgements rooted in knowledge and experience expressed with lucidity in reviews which give aesthetic pleasure to the reader.

“The critic’s responsibility is to the audience, not to the artist. As a director I expect more than a free marketing tool and more than just a personal opinion. I expect well written, informed, considered and honest reviews which place our work in a context and provoke thought and debate around our work. Only if we have a robust critical culture can we expect a robust theatre culture.”

All from "What directors expect from critics" 19 December 2018

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From cinema Martin Scorsese: "He never just described what was on screen, but provided the whole background, reading into the director's intention and so forth…. Whenever I read Philip French's elegant and thoughtful criticism, I felt like I was in the company of someone who not only loved cinema but who felt a sense of responsibility toward it as an art form...it's nice to be appreciated. But it's genuinely heartening, and rare, to be understood.”

From the retirement of Philip French 29th August 2013

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Critical language needs to be pertinent and direct.

“If the language we use to describe the arts doesn’t really resonate with the public we are trying to engage, then all attempts by the arts to reimagine the role of culture in society will have little traction. Why should people be interested in something that’s dressed up in a language they don’t find easy to understand?”

From "Critical Courage Required" 24th February 2021

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“Criticism”, at least in the view of Scott, “far from sapping the vitality of art, is instead what supplies its lifeblood.” It is “not an enemy from which art must be defended, but rather another name-the proper name- for the defence of art itself.”

From A O Scott “Better Living Through Criticism”17 December 2018

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"Critics move across four levels. They home in on the detail. They know their aesthetics intimately, confident in their judgements on form, content, meaning, expression. They have facts at their finger-tips: the life, love, money, or the lack of both, the context of history, the critical climate. And they yoke the first three to personal response. Jejune critical writing, that is swamped with the words “I” and “me”, makes a categorical error, that the subjective takes first place."

From seeing Simon Schama 1st June 2019

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On criticism in Wales

Dai Smith “Public Intellectuals have, too often, been seen as Public Inconveniences in Wales. By which I mean that we are often frightened or cowed into silence by the cosy nonsense that promotes the Idea of Team Wales or attempts to issue Brand Identities centred on spurious notions of Celticism or hands out badges for linguistic Good Behaviour.

“Cultural criticism would be a threat, an exposure of the comfort Welsh blanket with which we are so ready to drape ourselves, all cwtched-up and myopic in the hold-tight, don’t-let-go arms of Mam. I think there are, indeed, cultural reasons for our relative impoverishment...a lack of such essential figures, as Cultural Critics or Public Intellectuals, to a country’s well-being as a functioning Democracy in a broader sense.”

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Guide to the articles below:

16 December 2021 Best critical writing of 2021: Lewis Davies & Gary Raymond

6 May 2021 Equity publishes guidelines for theatre critics

29 April 2021 David Edgar on the theatre criticism of Eric Bentley

24 February 2021 National Theatre Wales, obsequiousness & drivel language

20 December 2020 Martin Shipton expelled by Literature Wales

25 January 2020 Wales Arts Review on awful, misogynistic Welsh film

12 January 2020 A call for bolder, more candid advertising and promotion

17 December 2019 Michael Billington: a great writer of theatre

13 October 2019 Looking at greats Gary Raymond “What is a critic?”

10 October 2019 Dai Smith on being frightened or cowed into silence by cosy nonsense

01 October 2019 Criticism and the importance of distance

08 June 2019 Critically Speaking Site & Crowdfunding Launch

01 June 2019 Simon Schama & the four elements of criticism

14 March 2019 In defence of criticism

28 February 2019 Wales Arts Review 2nd Critics Round Table

22 January 2019 At Wales Arts Review 2nd Critics Round Table

19 January 2019 John Caird on how directors should view critics

16 January 2019 Letter to an aspiring writer for theatre

07 January 2019 Writing reviews for 140 months

24 December 2018 The Cambridge Guide to Performance Studies

19 December 2018 What directors expect from critics

17 December 2018 A O Scott “Better Living Through Criticism”

20 July 2018 Meic Stephens a master obituarist

08 January 2018 London & Wales' critics diverge on “Tiger Bay”

20 December 2016 Twenty-five years of Theatre-Wales

03 August 2016 Sion Jobbins' sparkling essays

29 August 2013 Tributes on the retirement of Philip French

20 December 2013 Nine Things I Like as a Reader of Criticism

03 September 2013 The cull of professional arts writers continues

04 July 2013 Peter Lord “Relationship with Pictures”

19 November 2012 Critics Round Table

10 June 2012 Gary Raymond & Dylan Moore create “the Raconteur: America”

30 October 2011 Various critics on the art of Clive Hicks-Jenkins

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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