Jul 19, 2007

Brian Responds

Following on from my last night's rather silly polemic against Time Out reviewer Brian Logan he has (to his eminent credit considering I didn't really deserve it) given me a full reply:

I’m sorry that you didn’t like my review. I stand accused of being lazy, half-arsed and, worst of all, Johnny Vaughan-inspired. That’s hard to bear.

I do take my responsibility to the productions that I review very seriously, particularly when writing for Time Out, which we all know has a disproportionately high influence on the fate of London fringe shows. I know what it’s like to make theatre; I don’t take lightly the effort involved. If I ever seem to – well, I regret that.

I don’t pretend to be objective, even if (I’m just agreeing with Mark Fisher here) I see no need to explain in every review that this is just ‘one person’s opinion,’ blah blah. I think that would make for boring writing. And I do try to write entertainingly, which might be just another word for ‘glib’, ‘superficial’ or (an accusation frequently levelled at me) ‘like a giddy schoolgirl.’ According to taste.

I don’t measure plays against ‘a standard seemingly set at some meeting in about 1965’ – which was, incidentally, long before I was born. Although I do agree that that standard exerts a tyrannous influence over British theatre criticism. If I have a bias, it’s for devised theatre of the Improbable / Complicite / Told By An Idiot school – which isn’t known for its ‘coherent plot’ and ‘political and social themes.’

That apart, most of your comments, about 300-word reviews, the star system, et al, are truisms with which most theatre writers (as opposed to arts editors or newspaper editors) would heartily agree. Myself included.

So: apologies again for making you so angry. I soldier on, trying not to be fatuous. Best wishes with your blog.

So there you go.

Thanks to Brian for getting back to me. And for Mark and Andrew for commenting as well. And it wasindeed slightly lazy of me to just pull out the usual '1956 and all that' sledgehammer when I should know that Brian's own company are so consistently imaginative and inovative.

And I would have to agree - my main point is hardly radical - 300 words suffocates both engagement with a performance and the style with which someone can express that. But what can you do?

Answers on a postcard to Arts Editor at The Guardian...


Andrew Haydon said...

Corks, that is a measured response. I'm not sure I'd have been so polite. Still, what a gent...

Sean said...

Some people just don’t think that other people should be allowed to have negative views (except when they do, which will be constructive no doubt).

You say reviews are personal opinions, well quite right. Other people’s personal views on shows should be allowed! But I don’t have particular sympathy for theatre critics, they are paid and rather privileged creatures after all (just that they have a right not be trashed simply for their views, aged, sex ect. Now discussing views is another matter and should be encouraged.).

Andrew Field said...


I think I agree with you... I have conceded that I possibly went a little all out on Brian when he didn't deserve it (no man should be accused of being Johnny Vaughn-Inspired (hell... no man should be johnny vaughn inspired)).

However underneath all the bubbling late night ire, my criticisms amounted to more than criticising him for having a different view to myself. Possibly.

Andrew Field said...


I know. Boy do I look silly - that'll teach me. Ah well... what are blogs for if not to let off some steam once in a while...