‘Outsider’ Theatre Criticism - Investigating the evolution of the ‘outsider’ theatre review and its contribution to the arts
Royal Holloway, University of London
Supervisor: Professor Dan Rebellato
Theatre criticism is changing. Faced with competition from digital and social media and declining
advertising revenue, traditional print journalism has had to embrace new business models to stay afloat
and professional critics have seen their existing spaces and platforms shrink. Meanwhile the internet has given rise to a new generation of critical voices. The quality, variety and readership of ‘outsider’ reviews – self-starting, autonomous voices – has grown. This does not just include blogs written by individuals, but videos, podcasts, group emails, and creative responses too. Meanwhile, since 2008, artists and arts organisations working in the UK have increasingly had to defend their worth according to economic criteria. A positive review has always been a signifier of success, a marketing tool; more and more it is also a means to justify funding. As criticism diversifies, its stakeholders need it more than ever, assigning similar value and profile to these new forms of discourse as they did with traditional newspapers and journals. We can no longer confidently predict what shape a
‘review’ might take, but there are similarities between all of these different critical responses, in the acts of aesthetic judgement made by the review’s creator(s). This PhD will follow the thread from a review back to the judgements made about the works in question, to the nature of the aesthetic experience that may (or may not) be at the root of critical response. In
doing so, it will offer a greater understanding of the role, function and impact of contemporary reviews, and of the aesthetic relationship between the review, reviewer and work. This will not only provide a sound philosophical analysis, but will potentially solve practical, industry-based problems too, such as how artists can utilise criticism to ensure their projects prosper and how arts journalism might ensure its own economic survival.