A tale of two critics
Posted November 2nd, 2009 by debritz
Two quotes from different writers:
This production is QTC's triumph of the decade, so see it and be prepared to be taken out of your comfortable world and sit shivering on the edge of your seat - that is, when your heart starts beating again.
Powerful moments of fragile vulnerability are drowned out by yawning dullness. Provocative subtext is lost by basic presentations of the script. Moments of high drama seem contrived and uncomfortable ... And so the audience is left with awkward embarrassment.
Both are reviews of the same theatre production -- Queensland Theatre Company's revival of Arthur Miller's The Crucible, directed by Michael Gow and now playing at the QPAC Playhouse in Brisbane. The first quote is from the A Little Gossip arts newsletter and written by Alison Cotes, who I have known for a long time and has been reviewing theatre in Brisbane for more than 30 years. The second quote was published under the headline "How the Queensland Theatre Company crucified Miller's Crucible" and was published on the Brisbane Times website. It's written by Katherine Feeney, who I don't know but I believe has been writing for the BT website since its inception a couple of years ago, and pens a sex and relationships column called CityKat. While I have read arts interviews and listings under her name, I can't recall reading a review by her before. Readers who rely on published reviews to shape their ticket-buying choices would be confused by such a stark contrast in critical assessment, the likes of which I have not seen in years. Of course, I'm not claiming that one is right and one is wrong. I haven't seen the play but, from what I can gather online, the audience reaction on opening night was very positive. Another critic well known to me, Katherine Lyall Watson, says at ourbrisbane.com that the play is "not without its flaws, but the joys of the production far outweigh them". And Eric Scott, a vastly experience journalist whose opinion I also value, says at his absolutetheatre.com.au website: "This is the most powerful production from the Queensland Theatre Company I think I’ve seen. Director Michael Gow’s casting was perfect in this 20 character play, which used 19 actors, and he moulded them brilliantly into a gripping, suspenseful piece of theatre drama. It was the finest piece of direction I’ve seen from the company’s Artistic Director." At the end of the day, if you're thinking of shelling out the money for a show, I guess you have to trust the people you know and/or whose assessments have generally aligned with your own. After all, nothing can replace seeing it for yourself.