Words can hurt: the worst festival reviews

Words can hurt: the worst festival reviews

Milly Thomas

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.

Curse of the Mummy

Last Chance Saloon From creators of smash hits Dracula: Sex, Sucking and Stardom and Frankenstein: Unbolted, comes a tale from the darkest depths of Ancient Egypt. Our unwitting hero, Montana Jones, is on a quest for archaeological eminence. However, a love-cursed Mummy and a Nazi spy threaten to destroy everything!

Just The Tonic at the Caves, Edinburgh

Thu 3 Aug

Just the Big Room

£3 / 0131 556 5375

Preview Part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Fri 4 Aug

Just the Big Room

£3 / 0131 556 5375

Preview Part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Sat 5 Aug

Just the Big Room

£10 (£9) / 0131 556 5375

Part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

…and 20 more dates until 26 Aug

Denise Mina

Acclaimed crime fiction writer Denise Mina has recently dipped her toe into the often controversial world of the true crime novel. The Long Drop recalls the 1957 pub encounter when Peter Manuel convinced William Watt that he could find the weapon used to kill Watt’s family. And little wonder, given that serial killer…

Charlotte Square Gardens, Edinburgh

Thu 17 Aug

Studio Theatre

£12 (£10) / 0845 373 5888

Part of Edinburgh International Book Festival.

Dust

Milly Thomas ‘I've been dead for three days.’ A woman. A suicide. A choice. A fly on the wall. A funeral. A Bakewell tart. A life. A lie. A truth. An ending. Of sorts. Life, Alice thinks, isn't worth living. So, Alice kills herself. Sort of. Forced to watch the aftermath of her suicide and its ripple effect on her…

Underbelly, Edinburgh

Thu 3 Aug

Big Belly

£6.50 / 08445 458252

Preview Part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Fri 4 Aug

Big Belly

£6.50 / 08445 458252

Preview Part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Sat 5 Aug

Big Belly

£10 (£9) / 08445 458252

Part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

…and 21 more dates until 27 Aug

Inglourious Basstard

Guy Pratt 12 years ago, Guy Pratt first came to the Fringe to share his stories of life at the pointy end of the music business. Since then, he’s travelled the world with them to great acclaim, and been busy collecting new ones in his day job as bass player to the stars. Come and hear a rollicking and riotous retelling…

Frankenstein Pub, Edinburgh

Mon 14 Aug

Bier Keller

Free / 0131 622 1818

Part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Tue 15 Aug

Bier Keller

Free / 0131 622 1818

Part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Wed 16 Aug

Bier Keller

Free / 0131 622 1818

Part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

…and 10 more dates until 27 Aug

Mark Thomas: A Show That Gambles on the Future

Mark Thomas sets out to discover what the future has in store for us by collecting and examining his own predictions and those of his audiences before gambling on their outcome.

Summerhall, Edinburgh

Wed 2 Aug

Main Hall

£12 (£10) / 0131 560 1581

Preview Part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Fri 4 Aug

Main Hall

£15 (£12) / 0131 560 1581

Part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Sat 5 Aug

Main Hall

£15 (£12) / 0131 560 1581

Part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

…and 20 more dates until 27 Aug

Tom Allen: Absolutely

Sharp of both tongue and suit, Tom Allen (you'll have seen him on 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown, Live at the Apollo and Channel 4's Comedy Gala) presents a brand new show.

Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh

Wed 2 Aug

Cabaret Bar

£7 / 0131 556 6550

Preview Part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Thu 3 Aug

Cabaret Bar

£7 / 0131 556 6550

Preview Part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Fri 4 Aug

Cabaret Bar

£7 / 0131 556 6550

Preview Part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

…and 22 more dates until 27 Aug

Pleasance Dome, Edinburgh

Fri 25 Aug

AceDome

£11 (£10) / 0131 556 6550

Part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Sat 26 Aug

AceDome

£11 (£10) / 0131 556 6550

Part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

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