Ok, so I don’t actually have any reviews of the show, despite the promise/threat of one being published. Searching around, I found some great reviews of Robert Faires one man show of Henry V, still running in Austin, including:
“The show is so uniformly excellent, so seamlessly integrated we hardly know where to begin describing its many virtues—”
“an exquisitely simple and thoughtful evening of theatre, one that will send audiences away feeling smarter than when they came in.”
Under different circumstances, my show could be described in just the same way. ‘Different circumstances’ really just being shorthand for a completely different show. Perhaps a girl who is obsessed with Shakespeare and whose decisions are influenced by the lives of his characters. WWFD. What Would Falstaff do?
I then wasted a few more hours on Google, because when you’re still having trouble remembering some of your lines and cues, there’s really no finer use of your time than trying to find shows that have had crappy reviews in order to make you feel better about your own.
I found some truly mean-spirited ones that I wouldn’t credit the reviewer by reprinting here, but I did discover this from this year’s Toronto Fringe Festival, which could easily have been written for me.
“It was a very Fringe-y sort of thing. Heartfelt, clearly toiled over, a one-woman show that might otherwise never get staged. But also, we must reluctantly report, still fairly rough around the edges.”
Oh I know, I’m so self-deprecating, but if I was writing a review of my own show, it would probably read something like this (but with the addition of the words ‘funny’ and ‘British’) I’ve definitely had audience members that enjoyed the show and told me so and others who left the theatre as quickly as possible to avoid any embarrassing post-show conversations.
I thank god that I have the experience of stand-up comedy to fall back on. Not really God, as he had no hand in that, unless he controls the open mic at CapCity Comedy Club, in which case the hand of God might sit in the cash register. But as a fairly average stand-up comedian, I’m used to playing to audiences of 4 or less, to jokes being greeted with silence and to post-show pity-comments. Pity comments (named after pity-fucks of course) are the ones that people make when you and they both know that you sucked, but still want to say something nice. So I’d take the walk of shame to the bar to be greeted with variations on ‘you have such a great accent’ or ‘your hair looks great, who’s your stylist?’. (Nancy Rankin, Kemestry).
The theatrical version of pity-comments seems to relate to the number of lines I’m capable of memorising. People are apparently astonished at my ability to learn an hour’s worth of lines and in the absence of any greater apparent talent, feel this is safe ground. If only my ability to memorise things at school had been so highly praised. I’m sounding ungrateful, but it’s more just my disappointment at myself and my wish that I could dazzle audiences with something other than my (less than) perfect memory.
But back to reviewers. On opening night I was going to put up a promotional board in the lobby of the City Theatre with a poster of the hideous We Will Rock You musical and quotes from the absolutely appalling reviews it received when it first opened. These included:
‘It wasn’t just bad, it was traumatising’ – The Guardian
‘Surely they could have come up with something better than this’
– The Independent
‘Far from being guaranteed to blow your mind, We Will Rock You is guaranteed to bore you rigid’ – The Telegraph
‘..shallow, stupid and totally vacuous new musical – Daily Mail
But then Erik pointed out that people might think these were quotes about my show and so we decided not to do it. He’s usually infuriatingly right about these things. But my point was that critics and audiences rarely agree and that inspite of all the crappy reviews (and my one-woman hate campaign), We Will Rock You is still going strong 7 years later.
The truth is there’s nothing bad that a reviewer could say about the show that I haven’t already told myself over the past few weeks. And I really can’t be too concerned over what other people think, unless of course they think it’s brilliant, in which case I’ll take their opinion very seriously indeed. The fact is that I’ve taken a risk, learned a lot of frustrating lessons, lost money and done something new to scare myself.
Freddie would be proud. And probably a bit mortified. But mostly proud.