Six cheers for Time Out, who – having introduced a new six star rating scheme a few months ago – have finally attached this ultimate of accolades to one of their theatre reviews. It’s for Dominic Cooke’s RSC revival of The Crucible, now at the Gielgud.
Star ratings are, like the reviews they accompany, inevitably somewhat subjective: I’m still slightly startled by the fact that Nicholas de Jongh, having said of Embers, “I rate it as one of the major experiences of my theatre-going life”, only saw fit to give it four stars, not five. (What would prompt a five star review, I wonder?)
But while star ratings are a symptom of our attention-deficit age in which we seem to crave quick visual references to save us the bother of having to read the full review, they also introduce an unhealthy sense of classroom competitiveness: productions are crudely reduced to marks, that are then even more crudely transformed into marks out of ten in a weekly round-up panel in The Guardian every Monday that ascribe points to each review from a cross-section of them from different papers and aggregate them.
On this reckoning, theatre critics are no more than the judges on Celebrity Come Dancing, holding up a board with our scores on them.