(Lyn Gardner’s article appeared in the Guardian, 10/8.)
Is theatre criticism in meltdown, as some commentators are increasingly suggesting? I'm not so sure. The sacking of arts critics at the Independent on Sunday is certainly a worrying sign that some British newspapers are following their US cousins in ditching arts and theatre criticism. The paper is certainly no longer in my shopping basket as a result. But many – including the Guardian – remain committed to arts writing and theatre criticism, even at a time when huge cultural shifts mean that the economic models on which they were founded are breaking down.
But the crisis is how to pay for great journalism – and that includes theatre criticism – not necessarily of journalism and criticism itself, although the slicing of word counts and the arrival of star ratings have all increasingly turned the critic into a reviewer whose job is often seen as a consumer guide, applying the same criteria that you would to buying a new fridge. And, who knows, the pendulum may yet swing the other way. There was a time back in the early 1990s when newspapers barely went near regional theatres; now they wouldn't dream of not reviewing the latest show at West Yorkshire Playhouse.