If we give you a free ticket, we deserve a review (your views, September 14)

Comedian Bec Hill was involved in a Twitter debate about whether performers deserve a review in exchange for a free press ticket Comedian Bec Hill was involved in a Twitter debate about whether performers deserve a review in exchange for a free press ticket
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Lyn Gardner’s column on free tickets for reviews is well thought out and balanced.

I don’t mind if a reviewer is unable to provide a review for a legitimate reason, but this year I was surprised, as in my seven years of experience, I’ve never had a press ticket not result in a review. However, a few reviewers privately contacted me to discuss the fact that often time, space or budget can limit their abilities.

In comedy, when most performers self-produce and run at a loss at Edinburgh, it is not ideal that they often foot the bill for ‘free’ press tickets. However, that situation would be easier to accept if reviewers had the decency to contact performers to say a review would not be possible, but the press ticket was appreciated. In my case, I don’t have any proof that the reviewer even bothered to show up.

While a press ticket might not guarantee a review (and sometimes the performer might not want one), there needs to be more respect for what that seat means and less of an entitled attitude from certain reviewers.

Bec Hill
Via thestage.co.uk

Having just returned from making a show at the Edinburgh Fringe, I know how important this topic is. Reviewers from the Guardian and Three Weeks saw our show free of charge but we received nothing in return – no review, no tweet, no recommendation.

It’s good for critics to see how a company is developing but under the current fringe model it costs thousands of pounds to put a show on and the artists don’t make it back.

Why should our collective efforts give people free entertainment? When audience members pay for a ticket, they receive our product in exchange. If you are seeing it for nothing, the least we can expect is a review, however short – even if it’s a few sentences as part of a round-up.

Even a tweet review would be nice: 140 characters doesn’t allow for in-depth analysis. But if that’s what we deserve for presenting the full show for nothing, perhaps we should offer a similarly brief version in return.
It’s common courtesy for reviewers who get free tickets to review the performance. If they particularly loathe a show and feel it would be inappropriate to slate a new company with a one-star review in a national newspaper, they should at least contact them and say: “This wasn’t for me. Thank you for my ticket, I wish you well.”

Everything costs money. Why should the unpaid efforts of a team of young artists fund free entertainment for reviewers? They need us and we need them. It should be an exchange, not a ticket giveaway. Meanwhile, those who fund the free tickets go into ever more debt.

Alex Packer
Via the stage.co.uk

South Bank spectacular

While celebrating the National Theatre’s production of Follies, we were surprised to read in The Stage’s review that “the last full London staging was in 1987”.

In 2002 Follies was staged at the Royal Festival Hall, co-produced by Raymond Gubbay and the RFH. Though it is primarily a concert hall, the production was neither semi-staged nor in concert. It featured a cast of 30, led by Kathryn Evans, Louise Gold and Henry Goodman, and an orchestra of 27 – the same size band as the original Broadway show.

This production ran for 31 performances through August. It may not have pleased all reviewers, but it was warmly received by audiences and did well at the box office.

Jodi Myers
Former director of performing arts, Royal Festival Hall
Robert Jolley
Former managing director, Raymond Gubbay Ltd

Credits due

I agree with Paul Clayton about crediting actors properly.

I am driven mad by the actors’ names being squashed to the side of the screen so small it is impossible to read them – I want to know where I have seen them before or note them for future reference. Because of this, although I am a regular viewer of Doctors, I don’t even know who plays the regular characters.

Often at the end of a film, the cast is not shown at all. Why do producers think we wouldn’t want to know who played which part?

Incidentally, when reading the reviews in The Stage, I always look at the cast first.

Angela Yeoman
Email address supplied

Quote of the week

Nica Burns, Nimax chief excecutive
Nica Burns, Nimax chief excecutive


“Producers are entrepreneurs. Your shows have to be very good, but if you don’t succeed more than you fail, you’ll be out of business. If you are weak at one side of it, find a partner on the same page as you who is strong where you are weak. Otherwise do something else.”
Nica Burns on producing (Times)

“Max is the most driven of all theatre’s workaholics and the most competitive. He used to race people through the phonetic alphabet, to see who got to the end first, for fun. He and I had a reading race once, to see which of us got through the most books in a year. I beat him, but I had to get above 200 to do so, and he only had one good eye after the stroke.”
Barney Norris on playwright Max Stafford-Clark (Guardian)

“I’d heard about The Stage newspaper, so used to get my local newsagent to order it in for me especially. That’s where I got the idea for stage school. I think my parents were hoping I would be a vet.”
Actor Joanne Froggatt (Sunday Times)

“Acting, in a funny kind of way, has a crossover with journalism. They both have a queasy relationship with the truth, but also a responsibility to your audience.”
Actor Bertie Carvel (Sunday Times)

“I never say yes instantly. I never do – I always think I can’t do it. This is a very different sing for me, very different from Gypsy or from Sweeney Todd, so I thought, ‘I can’t sing it’.”
Actor Imelda Staunton on accepting her role in Follies (Evening Standard)

“I’ve had some of the best experiences of my professional career in London. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was a remarkable experience. I was always going to be interested in an offer to do this play in the West End. I’m a huge fan – it’s brilliant writing. The movie with Jack Lemmon and Al Pacino is sort of like a “school for acting”-type movie; those performances set the bar.”
Christian Slater on returning to the West End in Glengarry Glen Ross (Time Out)

“Certainty makes your writing much better but your personality much shitter.”
Playwright Lucy Prebble (Twitter)

What you said on Facebook…

About a critic’s obligation to review a show for which they have received a free ticket

It’s unethical to get a press ticket and not review it in some capacity – and it’s just as bad not to turn up. Even if a show is appalling from a critical point of view, it is possible to find something to reflect on constructively.
Genevieve Hayes Fetherstonhaugh

No one is interested in anything unless it has a review. This puts pressure on people who have invested a lot of time, effort and money to put their work out for the public to come.
Ross Myles

For personal reasons, I was unable to write up some reviews from the first week until the third week of this year’s fringe. Filled with guilt, I offered to pay for my tickets. The PRs were understanding and happy that a review had appeared, albeit with only a few days left to run.
Mark Ludmon

About the National Theatre’s production of Follies

The time flies by and they are right to not interrupt it with an interval. Philip Quast, Imelda Staunton, Tracie Bennett and Janie Dee give a masterclass in how it should be done, but the ensemble equally deserves the plaudits.
Brian Ward

About Mark Shenton’s tips on avoiding interval queues for the loo

The ‘secret’ loo in the Old Vic stalls is for disabled people, not those who can’t be bothered to queue. It’s the only theatre I’ve been to that enforces this – and consequently one of the few I am still able to attend.
Hanley James