I have a curiosity about how we respond to theatre – critically, emotionally, physically, financially. My approach to theatre criticism isn’t really criticism at all.
I think that one of the reasons why I like looking at different ways to communicate my response other than straight up reviews is that we do not have a strong culture of talking about work online in Scotland. It is a little lonely. I’m not convinced there is an audience or appetite for non-professional reviews in Scotland. So rather than making the production the central focus, I look more at how my response is documented.
Heart rate monitor reviews FAIL!
I spent a lot of time researching how I could make this work but it never came through for me.
The original idea was to strap up audience members and cast members to heart rate monitors and see if there was a correlation in their physical response to performance. Could watching someone do something spectacular onstage get your heart rate up?
But first I had to make it work on myself before convincing artists to strap one on. The problem was getting a strong and consistent 3G or WiFi signal. Are theatres made out of those metal cages they put around supermarkets?! Stuffing damp paper towels down my bra to get the electromagnetic connection flowing wasn’t my idea of fun either.
You can read my first three failed attempts at http://heartoftheplay.tumblr.com
I did get some small, interesting result from this experiment. I have graphs that managed to record twenty minutes of my response at a time and you can see that there is some peaks and points I can identifying as being particularly thrilling. But the accuracy was unsatisfactory and made me more concerned with fiddling with the tech than enjoying the production.
The Royal Opera House’s experiments in the physical impact of theatre managed to achieve what I couldn’t. Though disappointed, I still think this is an interesting line in enquiry.
Theatre fees FAIL!
There was a little flurry earlier this year (again) about booking fees. I attempted to document how much of my spending was going towards additional fees on top of the ticket price through a live chart posted on theatrefees.tumblr.com This micro experiment slowly tailed off when I lost track of my spending.
If I was better at keeping track, I would have liked to look at the additional costs of theatre going broken right down; the price of interval drinks, programmes, transport times and costs.
Edinburgh Furinge SUCCESS!
During the Fringe, I sat down and put some cat pictures on a Tumblr page and called it the Edinburgh Furinge. Perhaps the most mindless piece of criticism I’ve done got the most attention, snagging 1,000 views in a day and making my Twitter feed go momentarily a little mad.
The Furinge formula was three pictures of LOLcats reflecting how I felt at different points in a production as an audience member. This was my review of Philip Ridley’s Dark Vanilla Jungle for Supporting Wall.
At first I was like
And then I went utterly
Which made me go totally
I was pleased that folk seemed to clock on quickly that the Furinge reviews were about the mad whoosh of feelings you get that render you dumbstruck, for better or for worse. This is what I wrote about it at the time.
Edinburgh Furinge Reviews is a space to catch you breath from all the #edfringe madness, look at some pictures of cats, have a wee smile, maybe get curious about a show, and then dive back into the fray.
It was fun to get acknowledged by blogs I deeply dig, see the cat reviews on venue press board and gets lots of lovely feedback. The one below made me give an extra-special hard air punch.
Vine reviews FAIL!
I only did this once, to see if I could make my two minute vlogs even shorter. It’s deleted now but you can see me making it at the start of one of my few 2013 vlogs. I didn’t like doing them. (I also fell out of love with vlogging this year but am slowly coming back to it in a slightly altered state, revisiting one production repeatedly over time in The Drowned Man memories)
Snapchat reviews SUCCESS!
This is what I wrote when to accompany the first Snapchat review for Show 1 of Secret Theatre.
I don’t want my half garbled, misspelt thoughts on performance to last any longer in than the ice in my post show G&T. Though my opinion is as worthy as anyone else, I’d rather the lasting, Googleable totem was something more thought out.
If a picture is worth a thousands words then that’s about the equivalent of 43 tweets. Snapchat is blink-and-you’ll-miss it as theatre. If you use the screengrab feature then you’re playing the game just about as much as someone who sneaks a video camera into the stalls.
It’s a way of reinstating a little bit of that narrowcasting you could do in the early days on Twitter before my mum got an account. It’s a bit more informal. A bit less cementing yourself to one documentable standpoint. It’s a little bit less like writing an all staff email to colleagues you haven’t even met yet and a little bit more banter at the bar.
If you really want to know my opinion on a piece of work, come back to me in 10 years time. By then, theatre that stuck with me is clear in all I say and do whilst all the rest has skipped away from my heart unnoticed.
The first of the short series of Snapchat reviews was a none too glamourous selfie of my excited face surrounded by hastily drawn peas. I wish I’d saved it.
I’d like to do more. I enjoyed the Snaps I got back from people and made some new connections. However, I limited myself to only Snapping London theatre reviews and my London trips were limited this year.
If you’d like to be included in any further Snapchat review mail outs, add “evenicol”
What I want to try in 2014
Given the continued rise of Snapchat, I’d like to do more reviews on that platform. I want to try something about measuring how I applaud and I think there is something interesting that could be done with geotagging. What these things are, I DON’T KNOW YET (she says in Meg Vaughan style caps lock). Heck, after a passionate love affair with Kenneth Tynan this year (which involved me dressing up at the gorgeous KPT for a postgrad presentation. Work it, girl), I might even make a stab at some longform stuff.