Tag Archives: Brickbats in Cyberspace

did the brickbats in cyberspace mean anything?

As you saw the other day, I blogged, among others, about the importance of a conference taking place on Monday evening. When I first heard about it I was overjoyed that, finally, something formal and serious was taking place to discuss the issues of how blogging is changing the theatre landscape.

Although actually I couldn’t attend, I was able to stream it over the internet and catch word and thus be in touch with my peers about all the relevant debates that cropped up over the short period. It was encouraging to see institutions so highly regarded such as The Telegraph, The Guardian, Complicite and other bloggers were casting their view, in public, on what is and can hugely affect so many theatre makers’ lives. The white doves were finally being released – hurrah! Finally being released into just a bigger room?

Since the inaugural event, I have seen very little coverage of the goings on of that evening. For the past two days, other known theatre bloggers @LondonTheatre @Dramagirl @MattBoothman and I have been Twittering away over who said what, why and where and how this is all a vast step in the right direction. But as far as I’m aware, that’s about it.

Searching both the Guardian and Telegraph site, I could find no information about ‘Brickbats in Cyberspace‘ and by certainly no means a blog. It’s only been talked about and covered by a couple of us and in this way it leaves me feeling so disappointed. Perhaps what was discussed and what came out of it, is in fact so far behind the rest of the web 2.0 world that it won’t make any press at all. Perhaps the academics who were present can take their research away and file it into a thesis that no will really ever read.

I found everything that was discussed fascinating over the short time and took a great deal from it. Although a lot was stating the obvious – more voices is better for all, for example – it was still good to hear it in public, at a formal evening, from respected contributors in their fields and in front of spectators who do this stuff everyday too. It was a real sharing and passing on of ideas and information, but yet again, this information lacks the true freedom that new media and, in particular, the internet has been striving to achieve.

If the Brickbats of these institutions are prepared to debate their views on such vital subjects then great – but won’t they please stick their necks on the line a little bit and voice it in a wider sense of the world?

It has dawned on me how much harder we, as theatre bloggers, have to work in order to make ourselves known to the theatre world. Our understanding and engagement of critical theatre is plausible, identifiable and both constructive and supportive because no matter what we say, it is for the everyday good of theatre and helping it to stay alive. It is a cliché to use ‘no press is bad press’ but it still rides here in the sense that our coverage is adding every little bit – we just want everyone else to come and indulge in the coverage of theatre and the arts too and that includes great conferences such as that on Monday night.

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the owl vs the internet

An incredibly funny and original sketch which formed part of Pappy’s Fun Club: Funergy show, at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe was something that came into fruition quite clearly last night. Many of you are aware of the classic argument which has been thrown back and forth between Print and Digital media many a time over the past few years, but finally it was Theatre’s turn to have its say.

HARC: Brickbats in Cyberspace hosted at The Royal Court Theatre, gave a more formal insight into Theatre and the Art’s stance on the whole situation posing the question of How blogging is changing the landscape of theatre criticism in London and beyond.

Contributing panellists were Charles Spencer, lead theatre critic for The Daily Telegraph; Andrew Dickson, arts editor for guardian.co.uk, Judith Dimant, producer of Complicite, and leading bloggers and theatre professionals.

Spencer fluttered about like the Owl arguing that there is a “watering down of serious critical discourse” and that bloggers are a threat to critics jobs. Very much apparent over in the US, he argued, and not so much here but certainly a real danger. What about critics being a threat to theatre maker’s jobs? Surely he, of all people, would understand the cutthroat world of the Entertainments and Arts industry and finally the dog was biting back?

Dickson sat on the fence a fair bit accepting his stance as a contributor through default – even though he contributes himself, he is the editor and therefore he also commissions others and here encourages blogging to its full potential. He then nicely balances along the fence by pointing out that blogging isn’t a potential threat to print media “as long as the newspapers are aware.” and that newspapers are “not actually sacking people because of bloggers but because of other stuff.” But all the while agreeing with Spencer that theatre critique should be of a high standard and readable.

Dimant pitched here flagging up and using Complicite as concrete examples, particularly a success story in Michigan where they were relatively unheard of but sold out of eight nights, after the first night showing. This is the raw power that not just word of mouth, but blogging can achieve. Of course the quality of the work, such is Complicite’s, has to be there for it to strive to achieve any kind of success at all.

At this point it was outweighed in favour of blogging and certainly where my stance is too. The fact that so many people can interact and communicate and share their views with each other through a freedom of different mediums is always a positive thing. With the steady decline of the existence and coverage of the arts over the past century, blogging and web 2.0 can only help to move forward the current trend of theatre making and seeing.

These arguments are backed up by both Dimant and Dickson. Dimant adding that the “existence of blogging helps people to participate, interact [and gives] a sense of community”.

Other thoughts that were pointed out and I thought were worth drawing attention to whilst streaming the discussion:-

  • Blogging in danger of jeopardising quality and content because you become traffic hungry and become obsessed by the clicks – I know I sometimes feel like this.
  • The article should be of a good quality and readable even if the reader doesn’t intend to go and see the show – in response I write that much of theatre blogging isn’t actually about a show yet we still read it. I certainly try to write with that appeal whether I achieve it or not – don’t we all?
  • Matt Boothman makes an incredibly important point, quite rightly – How is criticism supposed to evolve and find a place in the media as it exists today, if its biggest names think blogging is the enemy? Referring to Dickson here, and what of the likes of Billington and co.?

There was so much discussed in these two short hours and I’d love to go into deep and lengthy discussion about it all, but nevertheless it is encouraging that it has taken place and hopefully is the can of worms that was in desperation of opening.

Obviously I’m completely in favour of blogging as the opportunity for critique, discussion, interaction, community etc can only strengthen what we know and understand about theatre – but ultimately, it all has to be seriously engaged with by taking on board and when being transferred from page to stage. After all, the stage is what it is all about.

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