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Danielle Tarento: Unpaid bloggers often lack ‘intellectual background’ to write theatre reviews

Danielle Tarento has criticised the quality of reviews being produced by online bloggers.
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Prolific fringe producer Danielle Tarento has criticised the quality of reviews being produced by online bloggers, claiming many are not “proper writers”.

The producer of musicals including Titanic and Parade also said there was an issue with reviewers not being paid by online outlets. She suggested that paying these writers could instil a quality control measure, as “then it becomes a job”.

Speaking at an event called Everyone’s a Critic, alongside Guardian reviewer Michael Billington and hosted by Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, Tarento said most reviews had been reduced to “soundbites and stars”.

Michael Billington: Star ratings on theatre reviews ‘extremely unhelpful’

“The problem is there aren’t many writers like Michael [Billington] who critically review the way he does. The press list for my shows is around the 80 mark, of which there are about 12 proper critics if you like and everyone else is an internet blogger, who are incredibly useful as it gets the word out to a massive audience,” she said.

She added: “This is a massive generalisation, but a lot of people are not ‘proper writers’. They do not have the intellectual background or historical background or time to know what they are writing about. What they are writing about is did they like it or not, which is not what I think a review should be.”

Tarento said that “real criticism” outside of printed press “has to be looked after”.

“There have to be some sort of rules around it, and the way you do that is if you pay people, as then it’s a job and they have to fulfil certain criteria,” she said.

Guardian critic Billington used the event to criticise the amount of online outlets not paying reviewers.

He said that it was dangerous for young critics “expected to write for nothing”, because they would not be able to subsidise their passion past their 20s.

“You need to be paid. The appetite for criticism is as strong as it ever was. People still want to read a review, so we need to find some economic structure that allows it to be a paid profession. And I don’t know the answer to that,” he said.

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