What is the role of the reviewer?

15 Oct

I like that this question is being asked. It gives me the opportunity to point out that it’s a question that panders to elements in our society that support repression.

(Fireworks being far easier than thought, I’m being deliberately provocative and downright simplistic.)

If the question was rephrased as “What can a reviewer achieve?” it would be more indicative of an open society.

Choose the view

                       Choose the view

But the question “What is the role of the reviewer?” presupposes a concrete answer. It implies that there is something definite reviewers are supposed to do and if you don’t do it you are somehow doing something wrong. I missed that memo.

The question also implies that writing about theatre somehow needs a justification – as if there were something inherently suspicious about sharing ideas about art.

I know that reviewers sometimes do use the word role. They use it in sentences like ‘I see my role as educating both the public and artists.’ Being an annoying pedant, I like to point out it is not their role, it is their aim. And it’s a laudable aim, and one I might share if I thought I had any knowledge worth passing on.

But I am troubled with an aim being described as a role. There’s an assertion of authority behind that word role. It suggests that a personal aim is somehow sanctioned. But by who? By society? By the God of Theatre? By your editor?

If it’s merely the last of these, it might be better described, not as a role, but as a job description.

Veronica Kaye

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