Twelve hours after the curtain fell on Le Grand Macabre at English National Opera last Thursday, there were three reviews online – from Richard Morrison of The Times, George Hall in The Stage and myself in this space.
Later in the day, we were joined on Google News by Andrew Clements in the Guardian, Edward Seckerson in the Independent and Barry Millington in the London Evening Standard, the last of whom was in print but not searchably online.
On Saturday morning, 30 hours after curtain, reviews appeared in three papers – but not in the Daily Telegraph or the Financial Times, both of which chose to ignore one of the signal events of the new arts season. On Sunday, there were enthusiastic reviews in two out of four papers, nothing in the Sunday Times or (apparently) the Telegraph.
What we are witnessing is not so much a variance of arts priorities between newspapers as an all-round confusion of purpose about the role of reviews in a changing print/online universe. Every serious newspaper retains dedicated artform critics, yet none seems to know what to do with them – whether to lead the online debate or to carry on printing first reports of a performance days – or up to two weeks, in the Sunday Times – after the event.
In the instant information age, the arts review has fallen off the pace of progress. It now hangs by a thread in an endangered industry, awaiting a reconfigured strategy.