The reviews are in for Neil LaBute's Reasons To Be Pretty
Evening Standard Theatre Awards - just call me "Nostrastanus"

Has theatre critics vs bloggers just become critics vs Twittersphere?

Twitter-logoThe critic vs blogger debate is a well trodden path and I can't be bothered to re-visit the arguments - I'm sure one of the critic-bloggers can be relied upon to bring up the topic again at some point in the not too distant future. 

What does interest me in the whole theatre and the social media discussion though is how it is moving beyond bloggers writing reviews before or after press night.

More and more theatres are cottoning on to the power of the internet and I don't mean having a website through which you can buy tickets, I'm talking about Facebook, Twitter, blogs and YouTube.

The National Theatre, Donmar Warehouse and Royal Court are just three to have Facebook pages using them to post links to reviews, productions photos, videos, news and more. It not only acts as a promotional tool generating interest in productions weeks before they open but also a news outlet and means of interacting with audiences. 

And there are a growing number of theatres with Twitter accounts too. Today an email from the Bush Theatre in West London took social media usage to a new level. Included in the usual marketing blurb about its latest production The Kitchen Sink was a link to a hash tag search on Twitter:

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It is the first time I've seen this done but essentially what the Bush is doing is linking to audience opinion about the play. And it is still in preview. It has decided to promote the views of the audience ahead of the critics. Of course I can't imagine them doing the same thing had the comments been stinkers but it certainly puts a different spin on the critic vs blogger debate. 

Social media has taken office water-cooler chat to a much bigger audience. Critics moan about bloggers reviewing previews, indeed The Stage's Mark Shenton Tweeted yesterday that he'd paid to see a play but wasn't going to review it because it's still in preview. How noble. But the debate feels like it is (finally) moving beyond that. What are the professional critics going to say about Twitter reviews? What can they say?

Whose opinion do you value, that of predominantly middle-aged men paid to go to the theatre or fellow theatre-obsessed peers dipping into their own pockets?

Now I'm not saying I'm not interested in the views of critics, they do bring a particular level of knowledge and skill of expression albeit one that is frequently challenged by theatre bloggers such as Glen Pearce, Ought to be Clowns and the West End Whingers. But there are also those that don't blog but are equally theatre obsessed whose knowledge and views have only become accessible through social media like Twitter. 

I'm also not saying the days of the critic are numbered, far from it, but I'm increasingly turning to social media for interesting thought, opinion and speculation about theatre. Will the Bush Theatre be the first of many theatres to utilise audience opinion in marketing? And what power will it have over the professionals opinion in generating ticket sales?