Can theatre reviewers write theatre reviews which discuss other theatre reviews?

theatre critic cartoonThere are a few awesome theatre bloggers and writers out there (e.g. Dan Hutton) who feel perfectly happy to chat about what the national critics or other theatre reviewers have written. In general, it seems to happen a lot more when there is a big division in opinion. For instance, the national first tier critics loved Bend it Like Beckham, but all the bloggers were like, “Wait. What now? Did they see an entirely different show?!” Then there was that infamous case of Three Kingdoms at the Lyric Hammersmith, where the critics just didn’t get it but the bloggers really did. However, the discussion tends to occur in features or commentary about the review rather than in the original reviews themselves.

So is there a ‘right’ place for internal discussion about reviewing? One of the advantages for online writers and bloggers is that they can watch work after press night or even attend a production multiple times before they write up their review. They might even reflect on a piece a while after they saw it, perhaps their memory having being jogged by something in another show. Basically the cross referencing can go totally crazy if you’re not pinned down by a house style, an editor and the ideological persuasion of a particular title.

As Lyn Gardner has written, there’s an unwritten rule for the official critics that you do not discuss a show on press night. Not ever. But for bloggers, that’s the best bit! You get to go to the theatre with other guys and girls who love theatre as much as you do and are desperate to chat about it. So your ideas are shared! But that, for me, doesn’t mean your own opinion is sullied. It gives you opportunities to disagree, to contest, to explore. This is where the blogging community stands against the individual critical opinions of the newspaper critics. That’s not to say we don’t need them, or that they don’t offer something unique and valuable. They do.

To then answer my original question, yes you can literally do whatever you want. The rule of the internet is, there are no rules. I think there is a place for us as bloggers to reference what other people, whether critic, blogger, friend, mum, has thought – in print or aloud. But I’m still a bit scared to do it.