Reading Faith Ashleigh-Wong’s reviews reminded this Panda of a writing style a world away from Fringe buffoonery. In short, Ashleigh-Wong writes like a restaurant reviewer. And not a shitty modern restaurant reviewer of the Giles Coren talk-about-anything-but-the-food type. No. This is like the restaurant reviews you get in the Telegraph, or Conde Nast.
Check out the cadences of this paragraph, and read them in the style of Lloyd Grossman: “Revill starts off the show with a very tried [sic] and cringe-worthy opening which I felt was out of place in such an intimate crowd and obscure show – if anything it came across a little desperate. I felt he should have relied more on his energetic and jovial disposition to win the crowd.” She might just as well be telling us “The celeriac was roasted in too much salt for my liking, and the pommes gratinee did not come with the promised citrus jus. I felt that a little more garlic was needed, and the presentation rather let the entree down.”
It’s a very measured style, but you spend most of the review waiting for Ashleigh-Wong to masticate, swallow and digest as she takes each part of the performance apart and nibbles it to death. It’s a very enervating experience, like chewing on a tough steak.
Panda feels bad, because my colleagues are almost bemoaning those reviewers who are too abrupt or dismissive, and Ashleigh-Wong examines absolutely everything. I mean, bugger me, she licks the plate clean. But reading this stuff you can’t help thinking, for goodness sake, Ms Ashleigh-Wong, just poop out a pearl of wisdom, will you?
If she likes something, this reviewer will toast it five different ways and then, near the end, remember that she hasn’t said anything negative yet. The stuff she bangs out for ‘balance’ is pretty lame. “Chris Stokes might not tickle everyone’s funny bone; possibly due to the overtly personalized nature of his show.” “As enjoyable as [Chris Ramsey’s] show is, his style of comedy may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Some of his content does veer on the blue side at times.”
In spite of all this, and apart from a few howlers (this is Broadway Baby after all), Ashleigh-Wong does at least take some pride in her work. She covers all the bases. And in her less stodgy passages she can be quite illuminating – if you can get that far.