So, here I am in the final week of Edinburgh…and audiences for This Evil Thing are slowly building, but with over 3,000 (yes, three thousand) shows to choose from, it’s not easy persuading folk to see my show rather than the other 2,999.
In the first week, the List (Scotland’s version of Time Out) reviewed the play and it was a glowing review with not one bad thing to say – but it only received three stars. The star system is, alas, so important in Edinburgh – one star more or less can make the difference between someone deciding to see a show or not.
But something didn’t seem right. So my publicity people tried contacting the List to see if there had been a typo, and when they got no response, I tried getting in touch with the editor myself. A day or two later he replied, and said why didn’t I come for coffee so he could explain things to me (presumably how they award stars at the List).
And so I had coffee with the editor – where he apologised profusely – it WAS a four star review, he said, but it went to press before he could alter it. The reviewer had initially given it three stars as it was the first thing he’d seen and he wasn’t sure what kind of bench mark to set, stars-wise – but the editor said to him, if it’s three stars then I need you to say something nasty in the review. The reviewer said he couldn’t find anything negative to say – and so the editor says, well then it’s four stars.
But too late for the printed edition. However it has been amended in the online version and I have the editor’s blessing to declare it as four stars. What a palaver. Hard to know how many ticket sales that might have cost me.
Then there’s the Scotsman, Scotland’s national newspaper – so important for the festival. They sent a reviewer early on but nothing appeared in the paper. Twelve days later we find out that the reviewer hadn’t even written the review yet, let alone file it. And we’re trying to sell tickets for our play, a play we passionately believe deserves a wide audience.
Finally, with just five performances left, the review appears – this time there are some quibbles and caveats, though it’s generally fairly positive. But it’s four stars! To my detached and unprejudiced eye, however, it reads like a three star review.
So do I contact the editor to ask if there’s been a mistake and is it in fact a three star review?
Do I heck.
Mr Mears, I saw your show yesterday, (28th), and found it extremely enjoyable, (although I don’t think enjoyable is an appropriate word for such a serious subject matter!) Certainly, it was thought provoking and led to a long discussion between my 16 yr old daughter and I afterwards.
I am an ex-serviceman and if the time had come to go to war I would have done so as that was my duty when I volunteered to join up. Prior to seeing your powerful stage play I had always felt it was everyone’s duty to serve their country if called upon. However, with the power of hindsight it is clear to see that the events between 1914 and 1918 were barbaric and it is understandable why so many made a stand against what was happening at that time.
Likewise, morally, it is impossible to argue in favour of war, even more so with the fairly recent events of the last two Gulf wars, and more especially when the reasons put forward by the politicians for going to war on these occasions were horrendously flawed. In fact, I think it would be a fool who would argue that violence could ever be the answer to any disputes, either internationally, or personally. However, like you with the ‘pacifist gene’ that you describe in your play, I appear to have a polar view and this moral sense that one must stand up to the aggressor or bully if the time calls. Can I give you an example of when that time is? Unfortunately not because history has taught us that most, if not all, of the wars fought over the decades have been for the wrong reasons. One could argue that the fight against Hitler was justified, or that their was justification in repatriating the Falklands Islands, but it is always going to be difficult to argue the case against the number of lives lost in these wars.
Thank you for an amazing stage play made all the better due to your evident passion in the subject matter. And for what it’s worth, I would give you 5 stars.