Reviewing previews - yes or no?

Hi guys!

This will only be a quick post as I only landed in England a few hours ago after two weeks on holiday in Turkey, but I've been following the drama surrounding the newspapers who published reviews of Hamlet at The Barbican before press night, and subsequently, the uproar in the blogging community as a result of these actions being branded blogger-eque by some, and just wanted to consolidate my thoughts (which I posted over on twitter) into a quick post, so you all know where I stand.

When I began this blog in October 2014, it was solely for my own use. I wanted to practice my reviewing skills as I knew I'd be using them a lot while studying Drama and English Literature at uni. I posted online copies of all of the articles I'd written for my Sixth form magazine, and then began reviewing all the shows that I saw, regardless of whether they were local productions, tours, West End shows or anything else even remotely theatre-y. I shared them on twitter afterwards as it was the easiest way to tell my friends and family about what I'd been seeing. At this point, while I followed a lot of larger theatre blogs such a West End Frame and West End Wilma, I wasn't aware of the larger theatre blogging community (the fabulous #LDNtheatrebloggers and #UKtheatrebloggers) and I was very surprised when people I didn't know began reading and commenting on my blog posts.

During my first few blogging months, I saw two shows during previews, and subsequently posted my thoughts in a review form on this site. The first show, Memphis the Musical, was one I had been eagerly anticipating for months, and the second, City of Angels, was one which I very luckily managed to bag a Barclays Front Row ticket for, as it had sold out months in advance.

At this point, I wasn't aware of embargoes, and didn't realise that reviewing previews was not the done thing. However, I also has a VERY tiny audience, had paid for my tickets and was not being paid or rewarded for sharing my thoughts. I didn't see myself as a "theatre blogger", just a theatre fan who happened to also have a blog. I didn't receive any complaints as a result of posting both of these reviews (possibly due to the fact that I had next to no page views), and several actors read/retweeted my writing. One even put up a link on his Facebook page, which made me (the young, na├»ve blogger) very excited indeed. And that was the end of that.

However, after coming into contact with the #LDNtheatrebloggers via twitter, I decided to take a more professional approach to my blog. I ditched (for the most part) the gushing, in favour of a (slightly) more analytical tone, and quickly learned the theatre bloggers etiquette. I also became aware that reviewing previews was not really the done thing, and so swiftly stopped doing that as well. The last thing I wanted was for my past efforts as a rookie blogger to tarnish my reputation later on!

I know that a lot of theatre bloggers, myself included, would like to be seen as knowledgeable and reliable sources, and  as such, I now try to conduct myself in a professional manner, both in the theatre, and when writing my review or blog posts. Although I have not posted any other preview reviews aside from the two I already mentioned, I now make a conscious discussion to wait until press night (or afterwards) to post my thoughts.

That being said, I am a blogger, not a journalist, and I don't have the privilege of being invited to review every single new show in London. If I want to see as much as possible, then for monetary reasons previews become pretty much my only viable option.

At the end of the day, I really don't know enough to say for certain where bloggers stand in the argument. On one hand, we (for the most part) pay for our own tickets, form totally unbiased opinions of the shows we see, and, like the majority of audience members, we aren't sitting in the best seats in the house. We are normal audience members, and have a right to post what we like (as far as I know). What's the difference, after all, between sharing your thoughts on twitter, and sharing them in a blog post? I'd say that the majority of people who see a show in previews comment about it on some form of social media, and there is no way of censoring every single audience member who steps into the theatre before press night, is there?

However, if I as a blogger have dealings with the show directly, am invited to press nights or blogger nights etc. Basically, if I get invited to review the show, then jumping the gun and reviewing a preview beforehand is a huge no-no and the thought would never even cross my mind!

Those are just my thoughts though, and if I'm wrong then please do correct me in the comments! Although I am ecstatic with how much this blog has grown in the last few months, I'm still quite new to the world of blogging (I don't reach my first birthday until mid October!) and certainly don't know everything there is to know on the subject yet.

Thanks for the support, and for the fascinating conversations on the subject over on twitter too!

Charlotte xx