There’s a very good post on The Guardian’s Theatre Blog by Matt Trueman, defending the existence of the theatre preview. His post was a response to Alistair Smith’s recent post which posited the notion that the theatre preview was no longer necessary, as it no longer benefited audiences (since preview tickets now cost almost as much – and in some cases the same as – regular priced tickets), or producers, since theatre bloggers are often posting reviews of the shows after seeing a preview, thus no longer protecting the producers from negative buzz before opening night.
What Mr. Smith’s post, much of which I actually agreed with, missed was the artistic necessity of the preview period – something which Mr. Trueman expounded upon quite eloquently, summing up just about everything that makes the concept of the preview period vital to the artistic process of creating theatre. Note I said artistic, not commercial. That said, though, a show honed and tuned in previews should theoretically result in better reviews, and consequently bigger ticket sales.
At the end of his post he makes an impassioned plea for theatre bloggers to adhere to the same principals and codes of conduct as professional theatre critics by not reviewing previews (making an exception – quite rightly – in the case of Spiderman). I couldn’t agree more, of course, but I’m afraid in the internet age, where so many people are scrabbling for attention and lusting after “exclusives”, that’s unlikely to happen.
My advice – stick to the reviews of the critics you trust. And certainly never give credence to a review of a preview. Those are redundant before they’ve even been written. Except, of course, in the case of Spiderman, the producers of which have turned a “work in progress” into the product itself.