Saturday, 21 August 2010

Edward on the Critics

Image by Dora Petherbridge

Star ratings mean an awful lot in Edinburgh this month. It seems every performer is holding out for that elusive number of twinkly stars that will catapult them into the big time. Indeed they play on the mind of critics too. Probably for different reasons in so far as the critic only has their own opinion to go on, whereas a production has to take into consideration the writers, the performers and the crew when they open the paper and discover their labour of love has been given a pitiful write up and horror of horrors a one star rating.

At times likes like these we could all succumb to an existential crisis.

But I prefer to turn to the wisdom of Edward Petherbridge.

Here in this email he turns into something of a philosopher on the whole business ...

‘Your vivid evocation of Camille’s cabaret performance set me thinking about high praise - Time Out having thrown convention to the wind and awarded her six stars. I opened the Sunday Times Culture this last weekend and there was Steven Fry advertised as doing a one man show at The Albert Hall no less, with a quotation from a review calling him "a towering genius" (The Melbourne Age). The Albert Hall is used to towering genius: Bach, Beethoven, Mozart - but it is not often it is used as a venue for one night solo stand up comedians - or, as he is billed "The UK's consummate raconteur." I was called a genius recently, not towering I admit, but a 'genius turn' which was rather nice, almost believable, then again it was only in the West End column of a local Islington paper (but then I know what talented writers even ThreeWeeks has amongst its critics). How does The Islington Gazette compare with The Melbourne Age I wonder? I know what the critic meant by calling me a genius, but nonsense of course - I didn't change the way mankind and womankind thinks about the world, which is surely what a genius does?

But I was struck that you talked about Camille's candour and that struck me as a very rare and powerful attribute in a performer...’

And now for a few examples of the creative ways in which performers use their star ratings to their advantage when promoting their shows.

Image by Dora Petherbridge

We particularly liked this one for handing the job of 'critic' over to an audience member:

Image by Dora Petherbridge


  1. Actually I deplore star ratings - quite a recent development. We are not hotels but ARTISTS - is it too much to expect of the public that they might want to depend on a thoughtful review rather than the cut to the chase mentality of a score? "Stay in the bar" as one paper explains one star. How crass!

    Best wishes,
    Edward P.

  2. having just read a
    dl sayers looked
    you up now having
    your wife as my
    compassionate image
    i have 2 sisters
    but i didnt come out
    of it too well