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The Eligibility Of Criticism?

On Thursday I wrote my ninetieth post on this blog. Turned out it was a controversial one and has since become a talking point on Twitter. The blog in question was a review of the "rock opera" Jesus Christ Superstar. I say "ROCK OPERA" now, but on Thursday I wrote "musical". It was a mistake I have since learnt to regret. It also shows my ineligibility to write reviews of musicals/rock opera it seems.

A little information for you first. On the evening of Thursday I was sent a tweet in reply to the review link on Twitter that simply read "JCS is not a musical. It's a rock opera". The tweet was from @MTIreland and said no more. I was interested on the difference being so simply highlighted and it turned out in further correspondence that my calling it that was a true definition that I should not have been writing critical reviews of such pieces as I did not have the experience required to do so.

My own reply of "Musical for me was a story told through music. Hence I called it such. Live and learn!" was greeted with "a musical is certainly more than a story told through music. The history is detailed, complex and varied. perhaps you should do a little more research into a style before writing a review regarding something you know very little about that could adversely affect performers, shows as well as productions."

Well that told me didn't it! Well it didn't, so I replied "I feel slight semantics over rock opera/musical. If I had written rock opera in the review and not given you the way in to reply, would you have still contacted me?" A reply bounced back which read "not semantics. Pure fact. Despite the profound lack in understanding of genre within musical theatre, there is clearly very little theoretical understanding of how the theatrical engine works. Independent reviews from individuals who don't understand the musical theatre idiom can adversely affect productions with very biased and subjective views of productions based on personal feelings. This is why critics study theatre as a living. So that despite positive or negative reviews, they can make Informed decisions for professional public appraisal."

That is where the conversation stops at the moment, to be continued maybe? However it got me thinking a touch on many things. Mainly of course who in life is eligible to form an opinion on anything. The answer to that of course is anyone. We do it all the time.

As regards myself, this blog is just that a blog. I offer my thoughts on plays, musicals, or indeed "rock operas" that I have seen. I have no pedigree, that is clear from my page. I do not list my honorary doctorates or whatever make a "true" theatre critic on my home page. I just write what I think from what I see. Free speech has apparently allowed me to do this. Also paying with my money has allowed me to do this. Indeed, some would say someone like myself might give a more balanced perspective on a show to a commoner (yes I am a commoner going to the theatre, get me). I had a brief stint as an almost "professional" reviewer on a website called The Public Reviews last year and experienced during that time the lap of luxury that these critics get, free ticket, free programme, nice hospitality and sometimes a free drink. I am sure that none of this influences a "professional" critic, but I am also thinking that it helps to soften them up a touch if a theatre does an exceptional job on it. I however paid for my ticket and queued up for my drink, but am not experienced or qualified to give an opinion anyway.

They also credit me I think with an awful lot of respect in that I might influence people with my "very biased and subjective views based on personal feelings", well from professional reviews I have seen many of them have an underlying edge of personal opinion anyway. What can a review be other than a personal opinion? I have also seen reviews of the same plays ranging from two star to five stars, so where does the responsibility of a "professional" critic lie there?

I also like the comment "that could adversely affect performers, shows as well as productions." I have to be honest I could stand up in a busy pub and scream "Jesus Christ Superstar is rubbish" and get my opinion across to more people than generally read my reviews. So the very thought I could bring down productions is frankly ridiculous.

Now my screaming of the above would also not be true because oddly enough although my review was the most negative I have written on this blog, it was generally quite fair considering I didn't enjoy it. So I do find it odd to get such a response. I know people who loved the whole thing and indeed went more than once. I even stated that those knowing want to expect would also probably not leave disappointed.

I stand by what I wrote and shall continue to offer my lack of understanding, non-professional opinion whenever I see fit. You, as are all people reading any review, are entitled to agree or disagree with me. I know that I have disagreed with many a review in the past also, that has never meant that neither I or their opinion should not be expressed as an entitlement.

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