When What's on Stage posted review round up of Katie Mitchell's latest, Trial of Ubu at the Hampstead Theatre, the headline was 'Critics judge Mitchell's Trial of Ubu' a pun on the plays title of course but maybe an unconscious reference to how she is viewed by the industry - someone to be judged as if she could possibly have done something wrong.
This, together with a comment @oughttobeclowns made last night about how some critics love to hate Mitchell's work got me thinking about whether some critics have indeed got it in for her regardless of what she does.
So I set about doing some research to see if this rang true. As critics generally rate plays out of five I thought I could apply a Mitchell/Critic score. My methodology was to choose regular theatre critics and a selection of plays performed in the UK, directed by Mitchell.
Mark, who was mentioned last night as a potential culprit, doesn't give his reviews a rating so I've had to eliminate him from the research leaving Michael Coveney (What's On Stage), Michael Billington (Guardian) and Charles Spencer (Telegraph).
The plays I chose were the Trial of Ubu, Woman Killed With Kindness, Pains of Youth, ...some trace of her, The Seagull and Wastwater. Only Coveney has seen every one but Billington and Spencer have seen four a piece which I figure is a reasonable amount to judge against.
But does this actually mean anything? Well theatre is subject so possibly yes. Perhaps it says more about the critics and their attitude towards less conventional theatre than Mitchell's skill and imagination - unconventional is by its nature inevitably controversial. Or maybe OTBC is right and some critics can never be won over.
It would be interesting to do a similar scoring for a director that is perceived to be more conventional or dare I say it 'safer' in their approach like Michael Grandage (is that an unfair choice?). That is another evenings work - unless someone fancies a turn - but I'd wager that he'd come out with a higher average.
What's on Stage's review round up of The Trial of Ubu averages 2.8 stars, I gave it four, with two stars for Woman Killed With Kindness and I didn't rate ...some trace of her at the time but as I saw it twice I'm giving it a retrospective five stars which makes my 3.6. The most important rating of course :0)