Everyone Is (Not) A Critic

M’ colleague and friend Gareth K Vile once wrote a brilliant article on the role of the critic, citing the lack of quality, and waspishly gave tips such as “write in full sentences”. You would think that this would be a prerequisite, but as I wrote in our previous blog The Tempo House, the rise of blogging,vlogging and podcasts has unfortunately led to people who don’t really understand the medium of arts criticism having a go, and getting to attend film festivals and the like, while providing no real insight on the work they’ve seen. Zach Pope springs to mind, an overenthusiastic young man who is full of adjectives, but who fails to justify them, also often getting the titles wrong.

Criticism is not easy. You have to take apart component parts of the show, film, album, whatever you are critiquing, and say why certain elements work and others don’t. Your language cannot be bland, mired in cliché or cruel, even when the work is unappealing. Don’t say “it was fantastic!” without justifying it, you’ve not had a day at the beach.

You must take into consideration plot, the message that’s being conveyed, quality of performances, of course, but also subtext, visual metaphor, scenography and lighting.

The smugness.

Don’t complain about the pre- show coffee (someone we know did this) avoid telling the reader what should happen (you’re not the director or dramaturg) and don’t get too personal. That’s not criticism, that’s a personal bias or agenda and it’s not ethical.

Do place the work in a broader context wherever possible. If the work is site-specific, or interactive, you can reference the surroundings. Otherwise, focus what’s happening on the stage. The reader isn’t arsed about your migraine or new shoes digging in.

Also, research the shit out of everything. It helps if you know what you are talking about. Insignificant Nick does reaction videos, but he likes to find out about the band and what the lyrics mean, and so he deserves props for that. It’s all about the deeper dive.

It’s a maligned art form above all. Don’t expect lots of money, or to be liked very much. Mark Kermode or Kitty Empire could tell you some stories about naysayers.

Published by loreleiirvine

I'm a freelance arts monkey. Come see my brain vomit.

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