I may be on my honeymoon, but I’m inevitably still plugged into the theatre back home (whether in my main home of London or my new second home of New York).
Yes, I’m spending long days by the pool and on the beach in Provincetown on Cape Cod, and avoiding what passes for theatre here (mainly drag shows and tribute shows, with Naked Boys Singing making their inevitable annual appearance; as one handed me a card the other day on Commercial Street, I was tempted to say I’d come if he kept his clothes on, but restrained myself).
Twitter, of course, is one way that I maintain my connection to what’s going on, and what people are thinking and saying.
I’m happily avoiding the live broadcasts of Superstar!, for instance, but I know exactly when they’re taking place: my twitter timeline fills up with nothing but comments on it!
The ongoing power of twitter as a marketing tool has been much discussed. Just last week the Guardian reported that American comic Rob Delaney’s debut gigs at Soho Theatre in October sold out entirely on the strength of his 480,000 strong Twitter following, to “become he fastest-selling US act in the venue’s history.” In fact, he only had 900 seats to sell — he was only giving six performances at Soho’s downstairs space — but it still says something about the power of Twitter.
In another Guardian blog on the London fringe and its marketing challenges, one (unnamed) artistic director commented, “It’s as if the old ways of marketing have stopped being used and the new ways aren’t working yet.” And the Oval House’s Rebecca Atkinson-Lord added, “There is now so much noise from social media that people just switch off and don’t listen any more.”
Yet I’ve found direct evidence of a few people, at least, listening to me: after my tweets on the Young Vic’s current Doll’s House, one follower tweeted, “Just booked for A Doll’s House @YoungVicTheatre based on the incredible tweets of @ShentonStage”; and earlier this week, another said, “To those of you who say twitter/reviews make little impact these days,without @ShentonStage’s rave for A Dolls House I wouldn’t have booked!”
It gives me a glimmer of hope for the survival of professional criticism: in the white noise of so much competing opinion out there, people like this — neither of whom I know personally — have built up the kind of relationship with me on Twitter where they trust me enough to book on my say-so. It’s exactly what happens amongst a newspaper readership, too.
Arts organisations have inevitably seized on Twitter as a marketing tool. But they’re not always using it well. On the A Younger Theatre blog, Jake Orr has provided a compelling ten-step guide to the kind of mistakes they routinely make.
Amongst the pitfalls that he points out that I’m particularly aggravated by is the constant barrage of requests I get to ‘Pls RT” (retweet). As Jake points out, “Twitter is all about connections, and networks. By putting a tweet out it should filter out through your networks and reach potential new audiences in an organic manner when it is re-tweeted. You should never force tweets. If your tweet is good enough your follows will re-tweet it for you. Don’t beg for a re-tweet.” If I retweeted everything I was asked to, I’d simply be there all day. And a retweet is a kind of endorsement by me, too: I retweet things sometimes, but at my choosing, not theirs.
Again, Jake also urges departments within organisations to communicate properly between themselves — and suggests, “Breaking news on Twitter isn’t always good.” Only last week the new production of Taboo issued a tweet, “Announcing our ‘Boy George’! Making his professional debut in Taboo212, the insanely talented @MrRowlandTweet!” I retweeted it, then added, “Would be lovely if a press announcement about @TabooinBrixton was also forthcoming, not just a twitter one….!”
The Olympics are nearly upon us, or at least upon you in the UK (since I’m not there); we still don’t know what it’s immediate effect on West End theatrical traffic will be, even as the street traffic will no doubt snarl up for everyone not driving in a designated Olympic lane, but already we have news that only four shows will have evening performances a week today on the night of the Opening ceremony (while two others will have Friday matinees). UPDATE: SOLT have informed me the article I linked to above erroneously stated that only four shows were playing. “However, there are around 20 playing (figure going up to 25-30 if you could include Off West End & Fringe).”
Chicago — a show that has regularly survived on the kind of stunt casting that has seen the likes of Christie Brinkley, Jerry Springer, Lynda Carter, Ashlee Simpson, Kelly Osbourne and Sacha Distel taking turns through its rotating casts — has this week seen Robin Cousins, a Gold Olympics winner at the 1980 Winter Olympics, join the show; but it turns out that this is its last pirouette. Has the show been skating on thin ice for too long now? Maybe the Olympics has finally kicked it into touch.
Quote of the week: from Stuart Heritage’s Guardian blog on ITV’s Superstar: “As with all Andrew Lloyd Webber singing competitions, the prize is a starring role in a big theatrical production. But this is ITV, so the production in question is a gaudy arena tour of Jesus Christ Superstar that inexplicably co-stars Chris Moyles. Then, after that, a glittering career awaits the victor. Just look at Jodie Prenger, winner of the BBC’s 2008 I’d Do Anything, last seen whooping at some oranges during an episode of Food Factory. These are the glorious spoils that the winner can expect….”.
“…Superstar is vastly different from Lloyd Webber’s BBC shows. It feels trashier, less wholesome, nowhere near as welcoming. Host Amanda Holden is walked onstage by a pair of tuxedo-wearing Dreamboys for no reason whatsoever… And then there are the judges. Andrew Lloyd Webber, we know about. Following his BBC shows, he now has his persona - a kind of sleazy, smoking jacket-wearing Mr Toad - perfectly honed. This time, he’s flanked by Jason Donovan (the Poundland Gary Barlow), Dawn French (who appears to be there purely to make Amanda Holden seem less letchy) and Mel C.”