Interesting blog post by Caroline Bishop in the Guardian yesterday about how gushing reviews can lead to high expectations and disappointment. She uses Noises Off as an example and must admit I agree with some of her views on that particular show.
It's the main reasons why I try and avoid reviews before I go and see a play (or a film), it's why I try and see plays early in their run (and films on their opening weekend). I prefer to make my own mind up and not have someone else's personal likes and dislikes as influence because, inevitably, it is a personal experience.
I've had a similar experience to Caroline this week. I saw Recruiting Officer at the Donmar on Tuesday - much later in the run that I would prefer. The clouds of comment that float around social media are difficult to avoid and had me hyped but ultimately I was disappointed. Now whether I would have enjoyed it more with lower expectations, I'll never know. It may have just been a bad night for the cast and me. (Full thoughts coming soon)
There are plenty of people that are influenced by reviews and plenty that aren't. Look at those shows that have had critical success but haven't put bums on seats. And equally films that have been derided by the critics which have gone on to smash the box office (Twilight series for example).
Reviews have their place and are a useful guide but should never be relied on. Getting exciting about seeing something is part of the experience but I prefer my own hype. What I mean is when I get excited because it's one of my favourite plays, or playwright or director or actor rather than being swept along with the crowd.
A play will never be for everyone. Tastes are just too diverse. I love a good tragedy, something that makes me cry but I have friends that don't like anything 'depressing'. One won't go to see anything that doesn't have a happy ending whereas I luxuriate in the haunting feeling of sadness that a tragic ending leaves. That isn't to say I don't like a good laugh too, far from it so no need to send Prozac.
I think of what I've loved and others have hated and what I've hated and others loved and what I may have potentially missed out on when I have been influenced by the opinion of others. When it comes to theatre at least, there is a group of people I've got to know over the last couple of years who have similar tastes and their opinions I'll always listen to and that isn't going to change.
If you can give something a go I'd say go. You never know it might be the one thing that blows your mind.