Despite reports from the BBC it does seem that the South Pacific production at the Barbican got at least two ‘rave’ reviews. So the email we received last week from Ambassador Tickets proclaiming that ‘South Pacific opens to rave reviews’ is not technically incorrect. However, they still couldn’t resist pushing the boundaries to the limits. Of the six quotes in the email, two are from Libby Purves’ review in ‘The Times’. Hers was a good four-star review although of course she is notorious for handing out stars like confetti. The Telegraph did indeed give the show an enthusiastic review, but we should have known immediately that the Independent’s quote was suspect – no disrespect to the musicians, but if it had been a truly rave review, we don’t think they would have chosen this quote: ‘The sumptuous orchestrations, a 25 piece band does ravishing justice to the indestructible score’. Sure enough, Paul Taylor’s review in the Independent gave three stars and was distinctly luke-warm.
And this leaves the two quotes from the Daily Mail. Dutifully we found the Daily Mail’s review and looked for the quotes. It was positive enough, but the exhortations to ‘purchase [a ticket] immediately’ were nowhere to be found, with the exclamation that ‘Samantha Womack gives the performance of her career’ similarly absent. After a great deal of searching we discovered that both of these quotes came from Baz Bamigboye, the Daily Mail’s ‘showbiz reporter’. The first was from a piece written following the first preview, and not a review. As for the second quote, we couldn’t find where it came from except that it was retweeted via twitter.
Some people make a big fuss about bloggers reviewing previews, and producers have often complained about the blogosphere and twitter killing off shows with negative comments. Yet it is becoming more and more common for showbiz correspondents go to previews and write positive comments in their columns (we have yet to see negative pre-opening comments in a paper). So, it seems to us that when quotes from actual reviews written by professional critics are a bit thin on the ground, they can easily be supplemented with something a bit more enthusiastic from any newspaper correspondent. Given the growing trend for papers to publish articles talking up particular shows quite independently of reviews, it looks as though press quotes are likely to get steadily more unreliable. No wonder theatre bloggers are so popular.
Meanwhile, considering what a well-received show this is supposed to be, there are still plenty of empty over-priced seats available and not an offer in sight, unless you count the opportunity to buy a premium ticket for a ‘normal’ top price (ie, the price it should have been in the first place).