Theatre critics “tend to live in a bubble of their own”, Nimax Theatres chief executive Nica Burns has claimed.
Burns said critics are often thin-skinned and nervous about the reaction they might get from the industry and those behind the shows they are reviewing.
Her comments came at the Critics’ Circle Centenary Conference, which took place at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and considered the changes to theatre criticism and its future.
She said: “I do think critics tend to live in a bubble of their own. They are often very thinskinned and slightly nervous about the reaction they may find from those they criticise, and are actually far more gentle people than we actually need to have because we [the industry] do accept that [criticism] as part of the process.”
Burns also acknowledged the importance of thoughtful criticism and expressed her concern over the recent decision by the Independent on Sunday to axe all of its arts critics.
“In terms of contributing to the growth of theatre and the debate about what theatre should be – we are always trying to step forward and push the envelope and grow – I think serious criticism is a space with people who really know how to write properly and lay their argument out beyond the ‘I think it’s fab’ of a tweet,” she said.
Meanwhile, Theatre Royal Stratford East artistic director Kerry Michael claimed there was often a “mismatch” between the demographics of the audience and those critics writing for print newspapers.
He said: “By 2020, half the population in London under 30 will be of dual heritage – fact. So the world is changing, society is changing and I don’t quite see it changing in British theatre.
“I love British theatre, but we’ve got to somehow catch up with what is happening in the world outside because we are part of a minority and we are getting smaller.”