On the showbiz beat: Can critics really be objective on glittering press nights?

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42nd Street London

It’s very easy in this job to get caught up in the excitement of a glamorous West End press night. We are given free tickets, free booze and are often surrounded by celebrities, but is that really the best way to be objective about the show you’re critiquing?

Don’t get me wrong, walking on a red carpet can have its attractions, but after the first few times, you begin to realise you can get a much more rounded view of show if you visit on another night.

I used to be mortified if I didn’t make it onto the A-list and had to see a show on a different night, but now I actually prefer it. You’re more likely to get two tickets, so you can take a friend, you don’t have to dress up, so are more able to sit comfortably and there’s no pressure to post your review at the same time as everyone else.

I also think it’s much easier to focus on the show you are watching rather than being swept up in the showbiz machine, with the peer pressure of being amongst other critics and the feeling you should somehow take their ideas into consideration.

With this in mind, I watched the new revival of 42nd Street this week- the day after press night-and I thought it was fairly bland. I was therefore surprised by many of the critic’s reviews and can’t help but wonder if they had been whipped into frenzy by seeing a member of the Royal Family (The Duchess of Cambridge was in attendance) and their opinions were perhaps affected by the occasion.

A lot of money has been thrown at the production to make up for its distinct lack of real substance and for me the phrase “You can’t polish a turd, but you can roll it in glitter” perfectly applies.

I must quickly state that I’m hugely grateful for every ticket I get and I’m fully aware there are thousands of people who would give their eyeteeth to be given the opportunity to see West End shows for free.

We are over a barrel however. Us minnows need to see the big shows in order to encourage traffic to our publications, so we are often left in a quandary. If we are negative about a production, we may not be invited to the next one and yet if we are not honest, we can never hope for any credibility from our readers.

I also worry that if the piece of theatre is of a more intellectual nature, my obvious lack of education might mean my review could be viewed as invalid.

It’s hard not to be influenced by other more established critics and to instead remain steadfast in your own opinions, but I feel with my writing, that I’m representing a niche of theatre fans; ordinary people, who make up a large proportion of the theatre viewing public.

Next week, I’m off to another big budget performance as I head to the London Coliseum to see one of my all time favourite musicals, Carousel, which stars Katherine Jenkins and Alfie Boe.

I’m then very excited to be going to an intimate performance by multi Tony Award Winner Audra McDonald at the Leicester Square Theatre. Audra has recently appeared in the film version of Beauty and the Beast and will reprise the role of Billie Holiday later this year in the West End production of Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill.

You can read all of my reviews and interviews on our websites londonnewsonline.co.uk and viewnews.co.uk or you can follow me on Twitter for regular updates @NickySweetland

Nicky is a former Cardiac Rehabilitation Instructor, who started to write about theatre in 2014. Nicky now covers entertainment in both the south west and London, as-well-as working on the popular Lyme Regis Experience magazine.

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