Friday, July 30

Review Review

Our show was reviewed in the August edition of The Buzz, under the headline Mature Content. I thought I'd post my thoughts on the review.

If I had any criticisms of 'theatre reviews' in The Buzz (and, of course, on those rare occasions that a review of a "local" show actually appears in The Guardian), it would have been that they were not reviews so much, but, generally, endorsements written by a fan/friend of the people involved in the show being reviewed. On a small island, where so many in the arts community know each other, it's difficult to be willing to make negative comments on a production. To this end, reviews have become little more than another form of advertising (and, it should be noted, for productions with such limited budgets as ours, they are welcome advertisements). With this in mind, I'd like to applaud The Buzz, and reviewer Jane Ledwell for writing a review that actually contains more than laudatory comments and fluffy praise. In fact, I find, lately, that The Buzz seems to be more willing to print 'critical (and fair)' reviews than it has been in the past. This is good.

I cannot really complain about most of the criticisms that Jane offers. Generally the comments she makes are valid for the opening week performance that she saw. There are a few points she makes that I disagree with, but these are merely point-of-view, or matter-of-taste comments, and her view and taste is just as valid as mine.

Some things I would like to address, though:

- "They need to drop the pop culture impressions and bad accents-other-than-the-Island-one (which risked being obscure, absurd, racist, or poorly executed)." I was (along with the rest of the people in the production) confused by this sentence. I was not sure what "pop culture impressions" we do, or what "bad accents" she was referring to. The somewhat troublesome implication that we "risked being... racist" raised a few eyebrows within our group as well, as we couldn't figure out to what Jane was referring. Her reply to an email questioning that implication left us, frankly, dumbfounded. I don't think it's fair to Jane to reprint her response here without her permission. Perhaps it will suffice to say that her interpretation of a certain character's origins and purpose is surely hers alone, and maybe speaks more about the need to analyse and find meanings behind comedy than it does about the intentions in making comedy. Sometimes a funny voice and costume is simply a funny voice and costume.

-"I was just disappointed that “Sketch-22” alienated part of its audience with crude material when the truly “mature” content still had edge and still got laughs." This is a fair comment, we have found out. It was, perhaps, unfortunate that Jane saw the show during the first week of our run. We have since realised that some of the crude material was a bit too juvenile or shocking-for-shock's-sake. After week one, the show was cleaned up (and shortened) somewhat, so hopefully, we've found a better balance between taste and distaste.

- "Rob provides the show’s most truly “mature” content". I hope this means what I think it means, and it's not just another way of saying that I'm the oldest in the cast. :)

- I'll not comment on her wish to see more Seagalls or shamless hussies.

After reading the review a couple of times, I'm still not sure if Jane liked the show. She says she wore herself out laughing and that the show is hilarious for those not easily offended. This implies she liked it, yet the general tone of the review seems, to me, to somewhat bely that laughter and hilarity. Maybe it's just my frail ego reading too much into the criticisms?

Still, apart from that one mis-guided opinion on us risking racism, I appreciate very much having a person write critically about our show.

Thanks, Jane. And, thanks, The Buzz.


Calico Cat said...

Quote Buzz quote..."She says she wore herself out laughing and that the show is hilarious for those not easily offended"
Sold,,,,,, I'll be on site within the next week 'Thurs & Fri'??? I have heard NOTHING but "You gotta see this,," , from people who appreciate humour and know what makes me chortle" , seriously.
Fer christs sake don't DO anything different or tone anything down till I get there... THEN do what ya gotta do...

Cyn said...

As one of the thankfully not-mentioned items on the girlie wish-list from Jane's review in your review of her review, I was ticked that she pegged all girl groups as 'estrogenny' and all guy groups as 'testosteroney'. Being rather testosteroney myself both on and off stage, I didn't appreciate the generalization.
Write about what you know. Or in Jane's case, write about what you've seen and remembered.
Aside from that comment, I agree with you Rob, it sure is nice to see a half-arsed real review instead of an advertizment/endorsement. Good on The Buzz.

Nils said...

I don't know whether Jane Ledwell liked Sketch 22 or didn't. I do know that her review made me more determined than ever to see it (if that's possible).
I think Jane's point - about the separaration between men and women in the comedic world here on the Island - is well taken. Cyn has every right to see herself as a little testosteroni (the San Francisco treat?) but in truth, much of the Drill Queens' humour - and success - was necessarily rooted in the fact that they were proud, strong, funny women. Not ALL their humour was "estrogen-y" ... but at its best (and here, I'm thinking of Cyn's early-morning reverse striptease) it was absolutely humour from a woman's point of view. And Cyn, I don't say that as a bad thing - quite the opposite.

Rob MacD said...

Calico - believe me, the stuff we've taken out was stuff that needed to be taken out. The word 'cum' is funnier, perhaps, written on paper, than it is spoken on stage. And we spoke it a whole lot on stage our first two shows. Don't worry, there's still plenty of ugliness to please those who have been seeking that. Thursday and Friday, all August long.
Cyn - you wear your testosterone well. You're all woman, sister, but your also more man than most of the schlubs out there. Except for that lack of dick thing.
Nils - no argument from me.

Cyn said...

Certainly, Nils, an all women cast or all men cast will influence the writing. I just don't think its fair to peg crudeness with being a boy. Let's not forget that Laura Chapin is a big part of Sketch 22's production, and she spillin' wit girlie-ness. I think she even wears a skirt sometimes.
Rob, thanks for the identity check. I may use it in a bio sometime.

Nils said...

Agreed, Cyn ... yer as crude and rude as they come ... er ... 'cum' ...

graham said...

I thought the review was honest to her point of view, but not very well thought through. There have been numerous productions in the past couple years that mixed the Genders: "Enemies", "Garrett", various Victoria productions etc., etc. The fact that Sketch is about 85% male was not a plot to undermine women, it was just some friends getting together to develop comedy.
2nd point: I know I didn't steal all the scene's I was in.Some of the characters I portrayed are by nature more expressive/ energetic then the others in the skits. This is a reflection of the characters not the actor.(besides how the hell can I steal the Anne Shady scene? I'm the only one in it?).
3d. I will reiterate Rob's mention of "They need to drop the pop culture impressions and bad accents-other-than-the-Island-one (which risked being obscure, absurd, racist, or poorly executed)."
Since when did pop-culture impressions not have a home in satire?
As for the accents...I don't know. There's a partial Newfie accent, a bad Cartman from southpark impression, An urban accent(Eminem),Scottish, And multiple Island accents.
I don't want to come across as someone who was offended by the review because it wasn't all peaches. That's not my beef. It just seems to me that Jane wanted a different show then the one we presented her with. Our show is offensive uncensored, crass, intelligent,relevant and funny as fuck. It is comparable to most modern comedy on TV, stage or music (again with an Eminem reference)........I don't even know what I'm saying anymore.....I love drawing new lines and then crossing them.
Thanks for reading all of my nonsense, I have to go back to work now.
Make'em squirm

Hamish MacDonald said...

I saw the midnight show of "Sketch-22" and laughed my arse off. Kudos for all the hard work and fun you put into it, 'cause it made for a great night out, and a crash-course on the Island for a former resident who's been away for a long time.
As for the review, I read it and found it half-baked. The show had nothing in it that was wilfully vicious or so base that I couldn't laugh at it. Comedy needs to be dangerous to be funny. If you're going to a show like "Sketch-22" expecting to see political correctness, you're in for a well-deserved rude awakening.
The intention was clearly to just get (and give) the laugh wherever possible, and it delivered. Not only is it good to see such original material being produced on the Island -- not just another grant-funded piece with all the danger of dryer lint -- it's wicked that an audience is growing to support it.
Too local? Bollocks to that! Local *is* culture! If everything were universal, there'd be no "there" there (and we're already too close to that cultural precipice). Congrats to the Sketch-22 team for giving the Island life a modern, relevant, and funny voice.

Rob MacD said...

Thanks for the kudos. To be fair to Jane's review, she did see a slightly different show than you saw, Hamish. There were some base jokes, lines and references which we took out, and which does give credo to her review in that regard.
Also, even though we didn't really know each other when you were on the Island all those years ago, I believe we did meet then. I apologise for not recognising you this time, and for not saying 'hi'. I was unsure you were you, and if you were you, I was unsure of your name. When I am unsure in a social situation, I tend to shy up.
Thanks again for your kind words on the show.

GRAHAM said...

I must say I was veery tired when I posted my comment and I apologise for using the f-word. Also I want to make it clear I did appreciate the review, and have no animocity(spelled wrong)towards Mrs Ledwell. There is a rumour going around that we've included a sketch about her. This is untrue. The night of the review, I mentioned a reference to her in one of the lines of the Real Anne shirley rap. It was not a personal attack at all.
Thanks Jane, for an honest review

Hamish MacDonald said...

I've been thinking about this topic since submitting my post. Writing reviews in such a small community is a tricky balance: a bad review can do *so* much damage when the audience is limited and the people involved have invested so much of themselves in the work, but as you pointed out, if "reviews" are really just press releases, what's the point?
I love that you guys are defending the person who gave you a mixed review. That's so Canadian (the Scots are very similar in this regard), and I think it says good things about the company's appreciation of the community it exists in and is a part of (which includes the journalists assigned these difficult tasks). So it seems the "balance" question goes both ways.
No problem about not saying hi, Rob. I figured something of the type was happening. Strangely, that happened a LOT to me when I was home. I think it's the glasses. It's led me to finally accept that maybe, just maybe, it's possible that people don't recognise Superman when he wears his. Either that, or all the people in Metropolis are Canadian and are being polite about it ;)

Rusty said...

Jane Ledwell certainly deserves props for her regular contributions to "The Buzz" and for making the effort to review local shows for the benefit of public, the publication and the artists. I know that Rob MacD is leery about reviews that are merely PR ads for local shows, but I find that Jane generally does a great job providing information about an artist or a show and finding the balance between optimism and reality. Most of her review of "Sketch-22", I think, was fair and tough-but-fair. What struck me odd, though, was the reference to the Drill Queens and the Seagals. It wasn't that she found Sketch-22 too testosterone-y: if that's her opinion, that's fine. It was the implication that the Drill Queens and the Seagals were more worthy because they were (presumably) less testosterone-y AND/OR that more Seagals shows this summer would counter-balance the testosterone-y tone of Sketch-22. IMHO, I think the Seagals get an appropriate amount of work and the Drill Queens had a run of a suitable length of time and both of these shows are not necessarily better than Sketch-22. Having more Seagals won't make Sketch-22 any better (or worse) and does little to illuminate the reader about the virtues or shortcomings of the show. The comment seemed like an excuse to plug certain all-female acts, which may or may not be a good thing, and was, therefore, oddly out of place.
All that being said, I have one last comment: It is amazing how blogging has facilitated the detailed and public analysis of the smallest and most personal discourse which, also, may or may not be a good thing. In other words, who, prior to the advent of the blog, would have thought the smallest of things could generate such great discussions?

Rob MacD said...

Rusty, I don't believe that she was implying that those femaale-derived shows are more worthy. I believe she was saying that somewhere between their estrogenic shows, and our testosteronic show lies a show that is closer to her notion of comedic balance and harmony. Personally, at this point in my creative life, I am not interested in making that show. I am, however, interested in making pretty much the show that we've created.
Regarding your blogging comment: I was trepidatious about making a post about the review because I was concerned that opening it up to discussion would generate a bunch of opinions critiquing the critique. I don't think Jane's review deserves such a fine-tooth comb perusal, yet I felt I wanted to reply to one aspect of her review in particular. Like you, I am not sure if such scrutiny of a thing like a review is a good or bad thing.