Through the years of living in Edinburgh I had gained a strong love for the month of August. What bear doesn’t? I loved the chaotic creativity as like-minds collide and combine, sparking new projects, ideas, friendships and everything in between.
In 2011, I decided to get involved and contributed as a reviewer to The Skinny, a publication with a credible and well-maintained comedy section. I enjoyed some “success” as a critic as I gave my only five-star review to a show which was later that month nominated for a Foster’s Award for Best Newcomer, much to the chagrin of all the other publications. I remember getting “the talk” about what a five-star show should be shortly after I had submitted it, lest I had been too hasty. (Editors with contributors in their first year really need to have this talk more often by the way.) But the important thing is: nobody else had reviewed the show except me.
As all the press scrambled to catch up I felt a certain sense of vindication for that review and claimed that as a “success”, even if I did say so myself. The thing is, as a reviewer at the fringe you only ever really get negative feedback. My editor was delighted with that review, but only after the act in question got nominated. It was the same review before they got nominated as it was after. So, what changed?
I learned that the Fringe press is just a succession of people shouting to see who can be first and loudest. Like a quick-fire quiz round were everybody is hitting their buzzers and giving the wrong answers before the question is even asked. Right now, nobody really knows anything. Don’t get me wrong, there are some amazing stuffed animals involved with the Fringe but all-in-all it’s a complete clusterfuck of a festival in terms of press. God knows how it’s still going.
But therein lies it’s charm. I see it ever-evolving with it’s own subtle nuances and quirks, like your favourite item of clothing. It wouldn’t be the same without that one frayed thread, that one missing button, that one little detail that makes it unique to you. This is why we keep coming back.
But here’s the rub: in 2012 I reviewed FringePig person Liam Mullone [who he? -Kipper] and gave him five stars. Does the fact that I am, according to his publication, only a three-star reviewer diminish the five stars I gave him? I think it does. But I’m sure that would not stop him from using my five-star review on his flyers or blog [of course it fuckin won’t! – Kipper].This brings up an interesting debate.
In August the number of reviewers triples, yet the calibre halves. Therefore, a five-star review from a Fringepig three-star reviewer may not be as good as a solid four/four. Perhaps the true worth of a performer is found by multiplying the stars awarded by the reviewer’s Fringepig rating. Then you really need a five-star review by a five-star reviewer. This way, the audience knows the true value of being told to go see A Brief History of Limes by their mate from down the road. Flyers do not reflect the talent gap between reviewers, while comedians only care when the reviews are bad.
I decided I would review again this year but I stated to Chortle that I did not want to assign stars to shows. But they have opted to keep them and so here I am.
I do not know what I will do this year. I’m hoping FringePig will help. I’m hoping that when I return to reviewing we’ll have lost the stars. Or we’ll use the double-review. And if comedians could stop taking their reviews so much to heart, that would help as well. We’re only people after all, and people get things wrong.
Barrie Morgan Bear