Theatre is undergoing a revolution – no longer is the critic’s word the final one, no longer are they the first to publish reviews and no longer is their voice the loudest. This is the story of the rise of the theatre blogger.
Over the last few years there has been an explosion of bloggers – from the big ones like West End Whingers or The Public Reviews, to the smaller Carousel of Fantasies, There Ought to be Clowns and even my own Theatrigirl. On top of that, stage forums such on sites like Broadway World or What’s On Stage are buzzing with industry gossip, fan chat and people moaning about inappropriate audience behaviour.
There appears to have been a never-ending appetite for theatre news and reviews which the traditional culture pages and critics were not fulfilling. And no doubt the introduction of a paywall of The Times and Sunday Times websites has also had an impact in the rise of the so-called citizen reviewer.
Theatre critics are, it must be acknowledged, a strange breed – hugely knowledgeable and inevitably harder to please than the average man on the street. The Public Reviews grew up as a reaction to this culture – everyone who writes for this site (myself included) is unpaid and has a day job, usually completely unrelated to journalism. And the site, run by actor John Roberts, now gets in excess of 100,000 visitors a month.
For all these bloggers, fans and even the occasional actor, Twitter is a vital tool to keep abreast of industry developments and two tech-savvy thesps realised that although this online interaction is all well and good, it would be nice to meet-up face to face. A tweet-up, if you will. So they started Twespians – a social evening for theatre people who tweet. Bloggers, critics, forum and community managers, theatre workers and actors will all be heading to their next event on 21 Feb. I’ll be there and gathering tips on how to manage such a vast and unwieldy online community – and trying to remember everyone’s name.