5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Sweat Reviews

Written by Ashleigh Gardner

February 1, 2018

If you’ve ever seen the film Birdman (2015), you’ll remember the scene in which Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) approaches an infamous New York theatre critic and berates her over her notebook. It’s a scene no doubt that speaks to every actor and critic at some point in their careers. (Warning: this video contains strong language.)

Even if the critic is harsh and the play/a performance is poor, it’s important to remember the following 5 things.

1. A poor review does not cement your talent for the rest of your life.

Let’s address this one first. The thoughts and opinions of a critic do not determine your talent ten years from now or even ten weeks from now. The critic saw your show in one evening; they did not see your entire performance career. So take it easy on yourself and know that this review won’t destroy you. Like theatre, this moment in time is temporary and fleeting. A critic is not the last word when it comes to your show.

2. A review is subjective.

Even though critics should be objective when reviewing a show, it’s nearly impossible. All opinions are subjective based on a person’s likes and dislikes, and a person’s opinion is just that —  an opinion. Not fact. Not law. While the critic may be well-informed and educated, their stances on the way certain aspects of the show are presented may differ from yours or maybe even 50% of the audience.

3. The critic may not personally like the type of theatre you’re doing.

Sometimes a reviewer is partial to “safe” theatre —  theatre that does not push the envelope or addresses timely topics. And sometimes reviewers don’t like safe theatre. A reviewer’s opinion (remember —  SUBJECTIVE opinion) may be based on these biases.

4. Any press is good press.

You’ve heard this before, right? It’s true. If a show gets a good review, it elicits interest; if a show is reviewed poorly, it may spark intrigue. Regardless, any mention of your show in the newspaper, on a blog, or by word of mouth is a good way for people to know it’s happening. And the more people who come to your shows, the more you’ll be able to show them how dedicated you are to your craft.

5. Remember that a good critic is balanced.

If you recognize a pattern of terrible reviews (or stellar reviews) for every show in town, you might want to take that critic’s reviews with a grain of salt. A critic who always gives a positive review or always gives a negative review may be easy to please or very difficult to please, respectively. A good critic examines a show for its challenges and its successes, however many or few there are. And if you get a poor review, see #1 again.

However, if a reviewer uses inflammatory language or calls an actor offensive things, there may be a more personal, deeper issue going on with the critic than just the actor’s performance. (And in cases where critics get nasty, I tend to disregard the review altogether. Let’s be nice. #onetheatrefamily)

Lastly, if you don’t agree with a critic, it’s bad form to publicly berate them on social media or in the comments section of the blog. The internet makes it easy for us to become removed from the words we type to another person. So if you don’t like the review, drop the newspaper, don’t visit the website, and keep doing the thing you do best — performing.

Need some advice? We’ve got you covered.

Ashleigh Gardner received her MA in Literary, Cultural, and Textual Studies (with concentrations in Film, Gender Studies, and Psychoanalytic Theory) and her BA in English Literature (with concentrations in Victorian, Gothic, and Early American Literature and Gender Studies) from the University of Central Florida; she received her AA in Theatre/Drama/Dramatic Arts from Valencia College. She is a playwright, an actor, and PerformerStuff.com’s Editor.