By Nida Butt
Nida is the Founder of Made for Stage Productions – pioneer of live Musicals in pakistan. Co Founder The Guitar School (LHR) MAD School (KHI) . Arts Educator, Director, Producer, Choreographer.
Trained Arts Manager from Kennedy Center for Performing Arts (DC, USA)
Human Rights Lawyer – LLB – LLM. University of Warwick (LLB)
The power and importance of an art review to art managers and artists cannot be denied. When it comes to reviewing art – be it a musical, an album, a book or a painting), a huge responsibility lies with the writer and editors of publications, to ensure that the writer is capable enough to review the piece of art in question.
As an arts manager who has been presenting work to audiences for the last 8 years, I would like to pose a few pertinent questions that have plagued artists inflicted by sub-standard writing.
Firstly, what are the qualifications of the writer? What knowledge and experience do they have of the art form being reviewed? What kind of training have they received from their seniors at their work place? Do they have an adequate background of English Literature and the narrative form – and a passion or genuine interest in the art form in question?
I cannot review a music album because I don’t play an instrument, and hence, don’t understand music to the level a musician does. I can, however, appreciate and express my personal opinion about how I felt about a musical piece – but that does not constitute a ‘review’.
In theater, for example, there are several elements which combine to make up a production – lighting, costumes, set, dialogue, delivery, direction, choreography and vocals. These individual elements are what theater directors slave over for months to perfect. It is these elements that come together to create the overall experience for the audience, with each carrying equally importance in creating the director’s vision. Unfortunately, most reviews of plays in our media fail to assess these separate elements used by the director. If a writer doesn’t understand the importance of these elements in creating the play, how can they do justice to it in print?
Over the years, my works have been ‘reviewed’ by ‘art critics’ as young as 19 years. My question is: are they adequately exposed to and knowledgeable of art and the narrative form, can they even begin to understand the artistic process that is behind a piece of art? Such questions must be asked by the Editors of newspapers before they assign someone with an art review.
Respect and responsibility must be implemented in reporting someone’s work. An artist who has spent half his life learning, researching and practicing an art form is often left to the mercy of a make-shift writer out to prove their cutting wit.
This has lead towards a trend of writers degrading artists and their work in order to cover up for their own inadequacies in comprehension, imagination and research This is highly damaging to art, the artists, and the readers’ perceptions.
At this point, I would like to bring to your attention an article printed in the Express Tribune on October 30, 2012 titled ‘Adaption of THE PILLOWMAN at MAD School is a string of hits and misses’, written by Fyez Ahmad. The following are some problems that I have observed:
Ahmad writes: ‘’ …the suspense is broken by a completely unnecessary announcement plugging in the play’s venue.’
A brief announcement was made before the show began. In the over 130 shows that Made For Stage Productions has performed in the last eight years, we have always made an announcement before the show. This is theatre etiquette that is followed around the world: the audience is welcomed before the show begins and a few announcements are also made to assure the audience’s comfort.
2. The front page of the October 30 edition has a masthead on the story, which states (incorrectly) that the play was directed by Nida Butt. However, in the story it is written that the director is Rouvan Mehmood and that Nida Butt is the producer.
3. The writer says that, at the end of the show, I asked the crowd if they found the play creepy. This is a misquote. I did not utter these words at any point during my address to the audience at the end of the play.
Art managers invest millions of rupees into creating art – just like any businessman would invest in their business. Reporting inaccurately about a big multi-national company would have serious repercussions for a writer, but this happens all too often when the report is on a piece of art.
Why aren’t the same standards set for art? How can we expect our art to flourish when the media is not holding up its end of the bargain? Doesn’t the credibility of a writer and a publication depend on how correctly they present facts?
Current practices need to be changed and till they don’t – the Artists will continue to suffer.