Just how aware of soundbites should reviewers be?

Shawshankgate? Charles Spencer

It is slightly ironic that a show about prison could land it’s Producers in one, but it seems that the Westminster Trading Standards Office are out prima donna-ring the best of us and threatening them with such.  Indeed looking at the enormous whirlwind of bureaucratic dust that has been blown up over the alleged misquoting of Charles Spencer, no one could say the West End wasn’t fabulously over-the-top.

But whilst it’s been funny to watch the WTSO up in arms like mini Mary Whitehouses; “It is not acceptable for any theatre to mislead the public” they say rather officiously (I mean steady on there deary) it’s also a bit worrying.  As Spencer himself points out, this hoo hah is in danger of being used to set a dreaded ‘example’, an example which could end up (after long tedious legal battles) in reviews which are so blandly non-committal as to be worthless.

Even if ‘Shawshankgate’ doesn’t lead to such a disheartening conclusion, it raises the question of just how aware (and responsible?) reviewers should be of possible soundbites.  With friends on both sides of the fence, I know how expected it is to include snappy sentences that can be used on advertising material, although obviously only if the review is good.

It does seem a bit foolish of Spencer to include such a quotable line of praise in the middle of a mediocre write up; he’s been doing it long enough to know someone was bound to pinch it .

Surely you should be able to write what you want but in the light of the over-the-top reaction to the current Shawshank debacle, should we all be keeping one eye on the possible manipulations of desperate marketing men?  They couldn’t use it if we didn’t put it out there.  In the crazy dance of promotion and critic, aren’t we both a little bit responsible?


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