Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Reviewing The Situation

There has been a lot going on recently about trolling and people being proper meanies on the internet. Because the internet offers people a misguided belief that anything they write online is veiled with a shroud of anonymity, it gives a feeling of an amateur, local village production of 'Anything Goes.' We are still just about clutching on to the last little scraps of free speech so people are still using the internet to weave together mean little sentences and then fire them out at fairly unssuspecting victims.

Although I've never been the subject of trolling or abuse online, it got me to thinking about the abuse that us actors put ourselves up for on a regular basis: reviews. Reviews can be amazing. They can tell you that you're talented and beautiful and that you are 'the next big thing' (or whatever other stereotypical phrase they can come up with) but they can also be harsh. Now I've actually been in very few things that have actually been reviewed. The first proper play I was in was listed wrongly in Time Out so most people turned up just as the play was ending so all they saw were two audience members leaving looking thoroughly disappointed. So, for the first few years of my acting life, I remained thoroughly unreviewed (apart from a glowing review I received on Yelp after I slated a restaurant in Covent Garden...)

But that all changed about 12 months later. I was in a play which was based on a translation of an ancient text. A beautiful story and a lovely cast and crew but the translation was about as coherent as my GCSE Spanish aural exam. Add this to rehearsing in cold offices and a budget that barely stretched to sticking a feather on a piece of string and you can imagine what the end result was like. Now, I'm not saying you need an endless supply of cash to make a good production but it does help stop your set, whic is supposed to be a sumptuous and exotic land, looking like a 3 year old's atttempt at making Tracy Island with their eyes closed. Much of our set was made out of cut up curtains and broken coat hangers and it seriously looked like it did too.

Because there was no money involved (not even travel expenses) the director had to be understanding about us needing to work which meant that rehearsals were usually spent with at least one cast member missing. We even had one cast member who was working on another show at the same time and, because they were paying him, we saw him once between the first meeting and the technical rehearsal (no, I don't know what his part wasn't re-cast either.) This meant that by opening night, we were seriously unprepared. Even by the final dress rehearsal, we still weren't allowed to be in costume because they were still being made. This meant that we had no idea they barely functioned as clothes so our audience on the opening night was treated to more than one actor accidentally flashing their pants. The first night was littered with people's trousers falling down and the realisation that our costumes were almost completely see-through.

And sadly the play didn't improve in time for the press night. This meant that we were then faced with a barrage of reviews that described the play as mundane, unsuccessful, confused, awkward, extremely wrong and that the costumes looked like they belong in a science-fiction show. Not the reviews we were hoping for when we were working on a profit-share show. Somehow we still managed to sell-out almost every night and we ended up with a pretty good show on our hands but a lot of the damage had been done. Our leading man had been slated in almost every single review and our leading lady was distraught when a review talked about the size (or lack of) of her lady lumps. However, the worst thing was that one actor had done incredibly well out of the reviews. Now normally this wouldn't be a problem. Normally we'd be pleased for someone who was doing well. But it turned out to be that one blood difficult actor who makes rehearsals a nightmare. That one actor who feels it necessary to pull you aside after every bloody run-through and tell you exactly where you're going wrong. That one frikking actor that despite telling him countless times not too, consistently ruins your big scene by upstaging you and making sure that he's the star of the show. Yep. That guy.

Since then the shows I've been in have barely been reviewed. And I'm still not sure whether it's preferable to be in a show that gets lots of bad reviews or a show that just gets nothing. At least the bad reviews give me something to blog about...


  1. I am frankly staggered that reviews would comment on the smallness of an actress' breasts. That does seem entirely unnecessary, and unless there happened to be Carry On-type lines in the script about lovely pears/pairs, completely beside the point!

  2. There was a very brief mention to their size in the script but really wasn't necessary for the reviewer to pick up on it.