Harlow Theatre Company respond to criticism over “Does your reviewer have any experience?”

Lifestyle / Mon 9th May 2016 at 09:10am

Dear Editor,

WHAT a disappointment that a well-intentioned but badly phrased question can have escalated into a generalised attack on an amateur theatre company with all the attendant distress as the social media wires ran hot to rub more salt in the wound for this director.

Speaking to the director concerned, which few others bothered to do, the original conversation was intended to ascertain who the reviewer would be for the sake of the common courtesy of a welcome but went beyond that. It was meant to suggest that if there were alternatives someone with knowledge of Pinter would be helpful. There was no intent to question the credentials of Your Harlow’s reviewers.

That said it clearly came across in a very different way. The editor heard what he heard and responded accordingly and I can’t take issue with it. The sarcasm felt unnecessary but at least made for lighter reading but the points made would make good sense if the underlying implied question of “who do HTC think they are” was valid and I’d like to argue that it isn’t.

HTC’s aim is to be the best that we can be and to deliver a broad range of quality theatre and we’d like to become the best amateur group in the area. But we know that we aren’t there yet and what our limitations are. I don’t hold with the view that amdram is only amdram. If you sell tickets you have the duty to do your best to provide quality. Theatre reviews are an important part of that quality process, good or bad, and have been a part of our productions for over thirty-five years. I can understand how this editor concluded differently but we are neither intolerant of poor reviews nor manipulative in trying to ‘vet’ reviewers.

In any volunteer not-for-profit group like HTC the admin workload tends to concentrate on a few and in trying to stage up to eight productions a year we would ask to be cut a little slack if some housekeeping slips through the net. This has obviously happened when attending to YH’s need for an efficient review process, for which I can only apologise but certainly didn’t sulk after YH gave us an indifferent review. To the extent that Your Harlow is interested in so doing after this experience we would warmly welcome their reviews and interest in what HTC is doing and we will refrain from the practice of ‘requesting a CV’ at the door.

Over the years Harlow Theatre Company has worked hard to provide opportunities for young performers and technicians as well as staging plays for local authors. In the spring of 2017 we have scheduled a play written by three young local budding playwrights. Your Harlow as a vehicle for developing aspiring journalists and reviewers is therefore close to our own values so please don’t conclude that we write off their views and talents as a result of any paucity of experience or qualification. To your last question “Et tu?’ I would respond “nous sommes les memes”

Barry Bowen
Chairman, HTC

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