I went to the theatre last weekend, a long planned visit and one that I thought I would be reporting on here as I worked my way through my understanding of the production and of the leading actors’ interpretation of their roles. What I hadn’t banked on was being so disappointed in the performance as to have very little that was positive to say about it. I wasn’t convinced by the way in which the director had chosen to set the play. I was distressed by the way in which he had slashed the text, which by my reckoning had been cut by about a quarter, thus rendering a lot of the arguments, (difficult enough to follow at the best of times) almost incomprehensible. And, worst of all, the leading actor had been totally miscast. He gave a completely inadequate reading of the main protagonist, a problem that was made worse by his inability to understand how to handle the language. I very nearly wept for him because he was clearly trying extremely hard but it just wasn’t working. Now, my question is this: as a blogger what do you do in a situation like that?
If I was being paid to prepare a review of the production for a major news outlet then there would be no problem. I would have to say it was dreadful. I hope I would find a kinder way of expressing myself than that, but my job would be to say to the public, who would be expecting some sort of report, that I would think twice before spending my money. (Quite a lot of money in this instance.) However, as a blogger, who can pick and choose what to write about, do I do that or do I just pass over the experience and write about something else entirely? Is there any need for me to comment in a negative way when a group of hard working, well meaning individuals have put their all into an endeavour and, what is more, probably know themselves that things are not working out as they had hoped?
The same question arises where books are concerned. One of my favourite authors has just disappointed me big time, to the point where I have found myself seriously questioning whether or not I will bother to read their next novel. (September has not been an auspicious month.) I haven’t reviewed it here because I would have very little that was positive to say about it. But ought I to? Perhaps I would save someone else wasting time and money on the book?
Of course, there is likely to be something to quarrel with in any artistic enterprise and I have no problem with adding a critical caveat to what is, in substance, a positive discussion of a work, but to be substantially negative? I don’t like the idea. It is this which makes me wary of accepting books for review. What if I find that what I want to say is that personally I would never have accepted this for publication in the first place? Some poor soul has probably slaved over that for the last two or three years of their lives. It may be dreadful, but should I throw that in their face?
I would be interested to know how others bloggers deal with this issue. If truth be told it isn’t something that happens often, although I did walk out of a production at the interval earlier this summer because I thought the play itself was an insult to the intelligence of the audience and I wasn’t alone. Maybe I‘ve just had a bad year and it’s starting to rankle. Should I post a review that is substantially negative or should I choose not to post at all in that situation. What would you do?