As part of the Guardian’s open-journalism project, I took part in a Tweet Night for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. This experiment attempted to encourage people to re-think how we create theatre criticism, and to make it more public, open, and hopefully, honest.
I was immediately drawn into the sultry and yet tender performance of Williams’ classic, which swung to the undulating rhythms of the Deep South, resonating Mississippi with every trumpet solo. The set was stunning, hypnotic, and yet, subtle. After relishing in two heated acts, the interval began and I had to tweet my thoughts on what I had just experienced – in 140 characters or less.
Three acts flew by and I attended a post- show Q&A with Andy Dickson, The Guardian Culture editor. He discussed the aims of an open-journalism experience, which were first and foremost to open out journalism to reflect the wider world, rather than restricting it to a small number of theatre experts is key. Using social networking sites such as Twitter can make an all-round richer experience if it reflects more of a majority view. What was particularly striking was that Director, Sarah Esdaile welcomed the experimental system, and suggested that the public’s comments had proven more honest and helpful in terms of feedback and criticism.
The actors were generally positive about the experiment, but also cautious. Jamie Parker hoped that the process of consciously formulating a tweet ready for the interval would not hinder the process of watching the play, in which you should “surrender yourself to childish disposition”. However, he did note the invaluable nature of instinctive reactions; something that twitter can encapsulate perfectly as is so in-the-moment.
Overall, it is clear that open journalism has the power to demystify the theatre-making and reviewing process, and to make it generally more engaging for all.