‘It’s these pop-up reviewers who haunt festivals such as Edinburgh Fringe that have done much to devalue the review as an art form’ - Liam Rudden

A NOTE to Fringe performers writing their own press release/copy, if you describe yourself as a ‘legend’, it doesn’t really count.

By Liam Rudden
Thursday, 15th August 2019, 3:27 pm

The Fringe brings out the desperation in acts and companies, with so many shows each day, they do what it takes to get noticed and secure a review from a credible critic.

For the record, I’ve always thought ‘legend’ is something someone else calls you because you are so ancient and have been around for an unconscionable amount of time, that they’re surprised to find you’re still with us. Veteran is similar, only with less of the cache.

As I said, acts will do what they have to do as there are fewer and fewer reviewers around who can a/ actually write and b/ have the knowledge to write with authority on what they are watching.

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One reviewer in the last week actually down-graded a production because it was in a theatre with no wings... something they had never come across before.

Give me strength.

It’s these pop-up reviewers who haunt festivals such as the Fringe that have done much to devalue the review as an art form.

Once courted by producers and PRs alike, it appears the penny has finally dropped as they realise the slow demise of the professional critic now threatens to impact on their ticket sales.

Sadly, when it mattered, those same producers and press offices choose to court the glut of inexperienced bloggers and amateur reviewers in return for an ‘easy five star’ review, thus devaluing the status of a long-standing craft to the point that fewer and fewer platforms exist where the professional critic can have their work published.

That they now act surprised many publishers have followed their lead and no longer see reviews as having any integral value in this age of social media (when anyone can voice an ill-informed opinion with confidence) is churlish.

As they say, you reap what you sow.

This Festival some of the reviews have been downright embarrassing to read and having qualifications in English and literature only goes so far.

They can flatter to deceive where there is a lack of knowledge or authority born by experience.

You may be a fantastic academic scribe and have a raft of degrees but that doesn’t guarantee you’ll be able to colour and craft a good entertaining read, which every review should be.

There are exceptions of course, this Fringe our sister publication The Scotsman has a team of 20 professional reviewers across the festivals, producing hundreds of reviews, including the odd one star crit.

Admit it. Everyone loves reading a one star review as long as it’s not about them - that’s why the old Festival Page of Shame was so popular.

Kudos, however, to the stand-up who, some years ago, collected his five one star reviews together and proudly lined them up together on his flier the following year.