How do you choose which shows to review?
Well, speaking personally, I pick and choose – being involved in the theatre scene myself, there’s always plenty of stuff going on that is reviewable, be it a friend’s show or venue or a friend of a friend… I do sometimes go and see things out of the blue, because I like the sound of them, but that’s down to personal preference more than anything else: I normally like to see things that are a little more surreal/peculiar and arty, so those often end up on my list!
As a magazine, FringeReview does most projects by personal preference. We have a website where we can upload information from any press releases sent to us, as well as projects we’ve found by trawling theatre websites, which reviewers can then put their name to and go and review. Sometimes there’ll be a project which we ‘need’ to review, and thus a reviewer is found, but normally it’s just what we all feel like seeing.
Have PR people ever persuaded you go and see a show?
Yes… Good thing too, it is their job! I’m flattered enough by someone thinking my opinion is valueable and am thus worth contacting directly that I normally go to anything PR agents throw at me directly. If PR people send a press release to the magazine, we do exactly what we normally do with press releases – it gets put on the site, and if someone’s interested we’ll review it! So, if you want to be reviewed, contact reviewers personally – which I’d recommend without my Deputy Editor hat on as well.
What’s the best way to get you into a show?
A personal invitation, knowledge of what I normally review to know if I’d be interested, a promise of a chat and a glass of wine…
What are the best shows you’ve seen at the fringe?
Oh dear… Pass? It’s hard to pick the one or two shows that were ‘best’, it depends on what mood I’m in.
Can’t really ask about the best without mentioning the worst. What are the all time stinkers?
Again, difficult to say: I’ve seen some pretty dodgy crud in my time, but I wouldn’t want to further add to their misery.
Have you ever caught anyone altering one of your reviews for their shows on posters?
Not directly, but a friend swears blind he saw ‘so bad I nearly cried’ truncated to ‘so… I nearly cried’… not sure if that’s any better though.
Do you think free shows are good for the fringe?
Yes, unequivocally. It’s not like every theatre company can afford to put oodles of cash into a fringe show – and free theatre means a cash-strapped audience can still afford a good night out. As I understand it, free shows often make even more money off donations – if someone has a good night, it’s conceivable they’ll throw in a tenner, when a traditional ticket would have been less.
How do you think free shows can improve and be taken more seriously?
I think we’re not far away from free shows being a legitimate ‘style’ or evening in their own right – we already have free fringe festivals, how long before there’s a vibrant, thriving, centrally organised Free Fringe? Your guess is as good as mine. Until that comes about, I don’t think ticket price is a big decision maker for reviewers – we never pay for tickets, what does it matter if the show is free?
Is there any magic formula for a good show or is it simply a case of you know one when you see it?
Unfortunately, there is no ‘magic formula’ for a good play, but it’s more than just knowing it when you see it too. I mean, you can see good acting, you can see when a designer and a director have worked closely, you can see when money has been unnecessarily lavished or withheld, you can see exciting publicity that draws you in, and you can see a good production – but if the show isn’t good the show isn’t good, no matter how much you dress it up. I hold the opinion that a good show depends on a great production team, but lives or dies with its director: has he/she a good play? Has he/she found an exciting way of bringing it to lie on stage? Has he/she communicated this to the actors?
Chris also has a wordpress site.