Words can hurt: the worst festival reviews
- Brian Donaldson
- 14 July 2017
This article is from 2017.
Some game festival acts dip into their souls and dig out the reviews that truly hit hard
A blessing in disguise? It might not always seem like it, but a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad review can actually be a positive thing. Sure, this is coming from a critic right now, but it seems some artists have been able to see the flipside of the coin too. Really. In fact, we caught up with a few of them to prove it to you. So, next time you get a one, two or even a three star review, your best response would be to take it as a learning experience, or at the very least as fodder for your marketing campaign...
Milly Thomas (playwright/performer)
I was on a terrible date. When he went to the loo I checked my phone and there it was. Two stars. It was savage. I cried. When he came back I pretended my pizza was too spicy (it wasn't, it was delicious). On the tube he opened the paper at a random page. Another bad review. I sobbed. I never saw him again. At the time it felt so personal. Now I feel fearless. Because the worst has already happened. Plus it's hilarious.
Dust, Underbelly, 3–27 Aug,4.40pm; Brutal Cessation, Assembly George Square Theatre, 3–28 Aug, 4.20pm.
Guy Pratt (musician)
I was once reviewed by a young girl who had never heard of any of the people I've played for (Madonna?!) and was mystified as to why anyone would want to hear about these people. I also once had a glowing review in The Spectator, only to be crushed when I realised it was by Toby Young.
Inglourious Basstard, Frankenstein Pub, 14–27 Aug, 5pm.
Mark Thomas (comedian)
One should never read good reviews. But a bad review, especially from a publication or a journalist you don't like, is a thing to treasure (and vice versa: I once got a good review in The Telegraph and sent a message to the journalist which read 'if you repeat that, I'll sue'). The Red Shed was the 'best reviewed show' at Fringe 2016 according to the British Comedy Guide, so The Times' two-star review was the icing on the cake. The press release just read 'this is what the Murdoch press thinks of us: two stars "socialist schmaltz".' We sold out our Liverpool show.
Mark Thomas: A Show That Gambles on the Future, Summerhall, 2–27 Aug, 6pm.
Denise Mina (author)
A reviewer contacted me after a terrible panel event I was on, expressed fury and I apologised. He sent me his 'fairly negative review' and contacted me again to ask if I'd read it. I said no but, fair enough, he was entitled to his opinion. He sent it to me many times, via Facebook and email. I still haven't read it. Whoever you are, sorry about that, but this avoidant behaviour is why I'm happy and you are, I suspect, not.
Denise Mina, Charlotte Square Gardens, 17 Aug, 7.15pm.
Tom Allen (stand-up comedian)
When I was starting out as a stand-up I realised I was losing my hair at an alarming rate so decided it would be better to take control of matters and shaved my head. It felt quite a drastic thing to do at the age of 22. Shortly afterwards I got a review implying that now I was bald it made me look like an alien: sort of odd, weird, like I was from another planet. The following year I took control of this matter also and put 'otherworldly!' on my poster. It felt like a much more positive spin.
Tom Allen: Absolutely, Pleasance Courtyard, 2–27 Aug, 8pm.
Sam Dunham (comic actor)
Back in 2014 we [Last Chance Saloon] got a review from an online publication that labelled our show as 'extremely infantile and immature'. We thought this a tad harsh as we'd had a really good show and got generally good reviews. Upon googling our reviewer (as everyone does!) we discovered he was also directing a show that just so happened to be on at the exact same time as ours! We bumped into him a few times around town and he always averted his eyes and scurried off rather sheepishly. We just found it all rather funny and liked the quote so much that we continue to use it to this day.
Curse of the Mummy, Just the Tonic at the Caves, 3–26 Aug, 7.30pm.