Two separate incidents this week, but sharing a tangled thread.
Firstly, a call received at NOT BAd HQ querying whether we had plans to review Holy Trinity First School’s Summer Show last week at The Maltings. The caller in question was most put out upon hearing that, no, we had no such plans. She was further dismayed to learn of our policy on reviewing children’s performances — we don’t.
“Well, then, perhaps you should.”
“Mm, no. Don’t think so.”
“Because it’s an exercise in futility.”
“Nonsense. It’s a chance to share with a wider audience how wonderful children are; how talented and creative. Their hard work and purity of purpose shines as a beacon to cynical grown-ups through the medium of the performing arts … I say, are you listening?”
“Hhm? Oh, yes, I was just wondering when you were going to mention how children are packages of hope, joy and love dressed up with freckles and a lisp.”
“Sorry, I was so overcome with emotion I forgot. Listen, you reviewing these performances will remind everyone just how precious a gift children are. Your praise will boost their nascent self-esteem thus preventing them from making dubious life choices further down the road. Garland, LiLo, Wee Jimmy Krankee? If you ask me, they didn’t have enough positive reinforcement in their young lives. But you broadcasting the fact that each darling, knock-kneed vessel of gorgeousness up there on The Maltings’ stage has BRIT School potential … well, it might empower them to think ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ could happen to them.”
“I see. And what if — forgive me, I’m just throwing this out there —”
“No, no. Go on.”
“What if these little bags of tousled-haired foetal-brilliance are rubbish?”
“Crap. Beyond bad. So appallingly wooden that only a career in carpentry can save them.”
“You … did you … how can you possibly … you can’t say that, they’re, they’re … children!”
“Ah, we’re back to that exercise in futility then. My bad.”
No, here at NOT BAD we leave that sort of stuff to the professionals — The Berwick Advertiser and The Berwickshire News — hardened reporters, seasoned from years spent on the front line of infant entertainment reportage, venturing into this no-man’s-land to bring us back parental reassurance in the form of blanket praise and pictures of our beloved offspring dressed as a rabbit, say, or the Virgin Mary.
This is, of course, how it should be. Any performance involving young children is a joy not because of the subject matter or how well/bad it’s delivered, but because — bloody hell! — they’re cute and they’re ours!
And let’s be honest, as a parent do you actually look at any child on stage but your own? Really?
Because the bare fact of the matter is (and you’ll never hear this out loud for fear of invoking the wrathful ghost of Princess Di) other people’s children, well, they’re just not that interesting are they? They’re just kinda meh; an inferior version of our own kids that haven’t been as well brought up.
Whose heart doesn’t sink when, at a dinner party, the hostess wheels out a two-year old to sing ‘Old MacDonald’ with his fingers in his mouth?
All the verses. Twice.
And then this sprog, hyperactive from being kept up past his bed-time, takes the glow of pride in his mother’s eye as carte blanche to interrupt the rest of the evening with spontaneous cow impressions, thus ruining any chance for the adults to get off their clackers on Blossom Hill.
Just as you wouldn’t dream of telling the hostess that her child is stealing the only opportunity you’ve had all week to numb the monotonous pain that is your life by going blind through alcohol poisoning — and, by the way, did she know the kid sings flat? — so NOT BAd undertakes not to review kiddie performances on the basis that we’re all adults, a lot of us are parents. We know the score.
The second carriage, then, trundling along the same track of reviewing morality:
NOT BAd found itself at a social gathering on Sunday lolling in a deck chair next to a member of the Duns Players. We were very lucky to grab a few words with him before he laudably got trashed on Pimm’s and fell asleep, while we tripped over a croquet hoop and laughed far too loudly.
The gentleman expressed doubts about the notion of amateur actors being reviewed, and wondered whether or not it would put off new people from giving am-dram a go. We debated the pros and cons for a happy half-hour or so without coming to a hard-and-fast conclusion, but what do you think?
Are adults who get up on stage nothing but show-offs who should be able to handle some criticism aimed in their direction, or should our amateur actors be gently encouraged? And what about pro-am versus community theatre — should different sets of critiquing criteria apply? Should the paying public be able to buy a ticket in expectation of a certain standard of performance, or should we be happy to support amateur actors in their hobby, no strings attached?
Finally, do reviewers have a responsibility to tell it how it is or, if they haven’t got anything nice to say, should they say nothing at all?
NOT BAd looks forward to hearing from you!
NB: NOT BAd has a comments policy whereby all comments are welcome on the basis that they are respectful of other correspondents’ viewpoints. Any comment deemed to be offensive will not be posted.